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

Israel remains committed to treating wounded Syrians, PM says

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel remains committed to treating war wounded from Syria and reaffirmed his support for last week’s US airstrike in the neighboring country.

In comments at the start of a cabinet meeting, Netanyahu did not specify whether those injured in last week’s suspected chemical attack in Syria would be among those treated in Israel.

“Israel is caring for wounded Syrians as part of a humanitarian effort,” Netanyahu says. “We will continue to do so.”

Israel has treated more than 3,000 war wounded from Syria in what it describes as a humanitarian gesture.

Iran’s Rouhani affirms support for Assad in call

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani called Bashar Assad to reaffirm his support for the Syrian leader in the wake of a US missile strike, Rouhani’s office says.

“The nation of Iran will remain alongside the Syrian nation in fighting terrorism and safeguarding Syria’s territorial integrity,” Rouhani said in the call on Saturday evening, according to a statement on the presidency website.

He said Western allegations that Assad’s regime was behind a chemical weapons attack last week were “baseless” and suggested it was carried out by rebel groups to influence global public opinion.

“Terrorists must not be allowed to use such weapons to accuse others and pave the way for actions that are contrary to international law,” said Rouhani.


Pope Francis decries Egypt church bombing

Pope Francis decries the deadly attack on a Coptic church in Egypt during Palm Sunday celebrations, just weeks before his planned visit to Cairo.

The pontiff expresses his “deep condolences to my brother, Pope Tawadros II, the Coptic church and all of the dear Egyptian nation,” and says he was praying for the dead and wounded in the attack. Word of the bombing came as Francis himself was marking Palm Sunday in St. Peter’s Square.

The pontiff asked God “to convert the hearts of those who spread terror, violence and death, and also the hearts of those who make, and traffic in, weapons.”

The pope’s remarks on the church attack were handed to him on a piece of paper after he remembered the victims of the Stockholm attack Friday night. The bombing killed 25 people and wounded another 71, according to Egyptian officials.

— AP

France expels Swiss Islamic preacher with extremist views

France’s interior ministry says it has expelled a Swiss Islamic preacher with extremist views to his home country.

The ministry says Hani Ramadan was arrested Saturday in Colmar, in eastern France, as he was taking part in a conference, and police escorted him to the Swiss border.

This file photo taken on April 14, 2007 shows Hani Ramadan, the director of the Islamic Center in Geneva, delivering a speech during the annual meeting of Muslims in France, in Le Bourget, north of Paris. (Jean Ayissi/AFP)
This file photo taken on April 14, 2007 shows Hani Ramadan, the director of the Islamic Center in Geneva, delivering a speech during the annual meeting of Muslims in France, in Le Bourget, north of Paris. (Jean Ayissi/AFP)

It says Ramadan is “known in the past to have adopted a behavior and made comments which pose a serious threat to public order on the French soil.”

In 2002, Hani Ramadan was banned from teaching in a Swiss school because he had publicly defended the stoning of adulterers.

He is the brother of Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan. The pair are grandsons of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s now-banned Islamist group.

— AP

Second Palm Sunday church bomb explodes in Egypt’s Alexandria

Egyptian state media says a bomb explodes at church in the city of Alexandria during Palm Sunday mass.

Initial reports says there are many casualties in the blast targeting St. Mark’s Cathedral.

Earlier, a bomb blast at a church north of Cairo killed at least 25 people and wounded dozens of others who had gathered to celebrate Palm Sunday mass.

Stockholm truck attack suspect interested in IS, police say

The suspected Stockholm truck attacker had shown interest in extremist groups and had his permanent residency application rejected in June 2016, Swedish police say.

“We know that he showed interest for extremist organizations like IS,” police chief Jonas Hysing tells reporters, adding that two Swedes, one Briton and a Belgian were killed in the attack.

A view of the scene after a truck crashed into a department store injuring several people in central Stockholm, Sweden, Friday April 7, 2017. (Fredrik Sandberg/TT News Agency via AP)
A view of the scene after a truck crashed into a department store injuring several people in central Stockholm, Sweden, Friday April 7, 2017. (Fredrik Sandberg/TT News Agency via AP)


At least 3 killed in Alexandria church bombing — state media

Egyptian state TV says at least 3 people are killed and 21 others injured in an explosion near Saint Mark’s Church in Alexandria.

Egypt’s Coptic church said Pope Tawadros II had attended Palm Sunday mass there. It was unclear whether Tawadros had left the building before the blast went off.

The explosion comes hours after a bomb at a Coptic church north of Cairo killed 25 people and injured more than 70 others.

Six dead in Alexandria church blast

Egypt says at least six people are killed in the bomb blast at church in the coastal city of Alexandria.

An earlier blast at a church in Tanta, north of Cairo, killed 25 people and wounded dozens, officials said, in an apparent attack on Coptic worshipers.

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Second suspect arrested over Stockholm truck attack

A second suspect is formally placed under arrest in connection with a truck attack that killed four people and injured 15 in Stockholm, a district court says.

“I can confirm that a second person has been arrested,” Stockholm district court judge Helga Hullman tells AFP.


Death toll in Alexandria church bombing rises to 11

The death death toll in the Alexandria church bombing rises to 11, Egypt’s health ministry says.

The blast that detonated outside St. Mark’s Coptic Cathedral during Palm Sunday mass comes hours after a bomb killed 26 worshipers at a church north of Cairo.


Death toll in Nile Delta church blast rises to 30

Health Ministry deputy of the Gharbia Governorate Mohamed Sharshar says the death toll in the bombing inside St. George’s Church in Tanta rises to 30.

The blast north of Cairo came as Coptic Christians celebrated Palm Sunday.

Hours later, a bombing outside St. Mark’s Coptic Cathedral kills at least 11 people, the Health Ministry says.

Cairo decries Palm Sunday blasts as ‘failed attempt against all Egyptians’

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry condemns the Palm Sunday bombings targeting Coptic churches as “another obnoxious but failed attempt against all Egyptians.

Spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid later tweets the bombings in Tanta and Alexandria that killed at least 41 people are “a failed attempt against our unity.”

Suicide bomber behind Alexandria church blast — police

Egyptian police say a suicide bomber was behind the Alexandria church blast that killed at least 11 people.

Thirty-five people are wounded in the Alexandria blast at Saint Mark’s church where Coptic Pope Tawadros II had been attending a Palm Sunday Mass.

A Coptic Church official says Tawadros had left the church before the blast.

Israel offers condolences to families of Egypt church attack victims

The Prime Minister’s Office expresses its condolences to the families of Christian worshipers killed in two church bombings in Egypt.

“The world must unite and fight terrorism everywhere,” the statement from the PMO says.

At least 41 people are killed in two bombings on Palm Sunday, 11 in a suicide bombing outside St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, and 30 in a blast inside Nile Delta church.

Islamic State claims Egypt church bombings

The Islamic State group claims responsibility for bombing two Egyptian churches on Sunday in the deadliest attacks on the country’s Christian minority in recent memory.

“Islamic State squads carried out the attacks on two churches in Tanta and Alexandria,” says the group’s self-styled Amaq news agency in a statement published on social media accounts.


Hamas condemns Palm Sunday blasts in Egypt

Gaza’s Hamas rulers condemn a church bombing in Egypt’s Nile Delta that killed at least 30 people.

In a statement Sunday, the terror group describes the attack as “a crime.”

Spokesman Fawzi Barhoum says “Hamas wishes safety, security, stability and prosperity for Egypt and its people.”

The explosion in the town of Tanta killed at least 30 people as Coptic Christians were celebrating Palm Sunday. Barhoum spoke before a second blast at a church in the coastal city of Alexandria killed 11 people and wounded dozens.

— AP

Germany condemns Egypt church bombing

Germany condemns the bombing of a Coptic church in Egypt and calls for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel says in a statement that “the aim of the perpetrators, to drive a wedge between people of different faiths living peacefully side-by-side, mustn’t be allowed to happen.”

He spoke after a bomb went off at a church in the Nile Delta town of Tanta, killing at least 30 people and wounding dozens. Another bomb went off hours shortly thereafter at a church in the coastal city of Alexandria, killing at least 11 people and wounding 35.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for both attacks.

— AP

Toll in clashes at Lebanon Palestinian camp rises to 5

The toll in two days of clashes in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon rises to five, medics say, as local factions worked to implement a security plan.

Clashes erupted in the Ein al-Hilweh late Friday as Palestinian factions participating in a joint security force begun deploying throughout the area in the southern city of Sidon.

They came under fire from a local Islamic extremist group in part of the camp, prompting clashes that Lebanese and Palestinian medics said Sunday have now killed five people and wounded at least 30, mostly civilians.

Among the dead were two civilians, two members of the joint Palestinian security force and one member of the extremist group, the medical sources said.


Haley says ‘no option’ for Assad to remain in power after gas attack

Washington’s UN ambassador says that Syria’s President Bashar Assad cannot stay in power after a suspected chemical attack that prompted the first direct US military action against his government.

In an interview with CNN, Nikki Haley says peace in Syria was impossible with Assad in power.

“There’s not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime,” she tells the “State of the Union” program.

“If you look at his actions, if you look at the situation, it’s going to be hard to see a government that’s peaceful and stable with Assad.”

“Regime change is something that we think is going to happen,” she says, adding that Washington was also focused on fighting the Islamic State group in Syria and ending Iranian influence.


Police confirm body found in Tel Aviv is missing woman

Police confirm the body of the woman found at a Tel Aviv construction site earlier is Sivan Lavi, who went missing after her son tragically died as a result of a house fire.

Her body was found a construction site on Yigal Alon Steet in Tel Aviv, apparently after Lavi jumped to her death from the roof of a building.

A picture of Sivan Lavi released by police on April 8, 2017. (Israel Police)
A picture of Sivan Lavi released by police on April 8, 2017. (Israel Police)

Last night, hundreds of volunteers and police searched the Tel Aviv area for Lavi, who went missing earlier on Saturday, days after her 12-year-old son died in an accident.

Police had appealed for the public’s assistance in their search for Lavi, amid concern for her life.

Lavi was not a suspect in the death of her son.

Russia, Iran vow forceful response if US strikes Syria again

Russia and Iran in a joint statement say the recent US missile strike on a Syrian airfield in response to a chemical weapons attack crossed “red lines,” and threaten to “respond with force” to further American military efforts in the war-torn country.

“What America waged is an aggression on Syria is a crossing of red lines. From now on we will respond with force to any aggressor or any breach of red lines from whoever it is and America knows our ability to respond well,” Reuters quotes the statement published in the Ilam al-Harbi media outlet as saying.

Icelandic airline set to launch low-cost flights from Israel to US

A deal with Icelandic low-cost carrier WOW Air to operate low-cost flights between Israel and the US is approved by the transportation ministry.

According to WOW, round trip tickets will cost approximately $500.

WOW plans to operate four weekly flights from Tel Aviv to North America via the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik starting June 9.

A view of Reykjavik, Iceland's capital. (CC BY-SA 3.0 Andreas Tille/Wikipedia)
A view of Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital. (CC BY-SA 3.0 Andreas Tille/Wikipedia)

Turkey condemns Palm Sunday bombings in Egypt

Turkey condemns the attacks on churches in Egypt. Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin tweets his condolences saying, “We strongly condemn the heinous terror attacks on churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday today.”

Mehmet Gormez, the head of religious affairs in Turkey, “cursed” the attacks, saying they are the shared problem of all humanity.

“The immunity of a place of worship, no matter the religion it belongs to, cannot be violated and the bloodthirsty killing of innocent worshippers cannot ever be forgiven,” Gormez says in an official statement.

Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also publishes a statement denouncing the attack in the Nile Delta town of Tanta, which killed at least 26 people.

“We convey our condolences to the bereaved families and the whole people of Egypt,” the statement said before a second attack hit an Alexandria church, killing at least 11 people.

— AP

Israeli tourist in Barcelona dies during attempted mugging

An Israeli tourist dies during an attempted robbery in the Spanish city of Barcelona, according to reports in Hebrew-language media.

The man, who was on a family vacation, reportedly tried to resist the theft of his suitcases when he suddenly collapsed.

Spanish police have launched an investigation into the incident.

The Foreign Ministry says representatives from the Israeli embassy in Madrid were assisting the family in returning the body to Israel for burial.

US senator calls for more troops to fight Islamic State jihadists

Sen. Lindsey Graham is calling for as many as 6,000 more US troops to fight the Islamic State group.

The South Carolina Republican also wants additional penalties imposed on Russia for what he calls Moscow’s “aiding and abetting” of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the use of chemical weapons — and for Russian meddling in the 2016 American election.

Graham tells NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the additional troops would “attract more regional fighters to destroy” the militants. Graham isn’t saying where the Americans would be sent.

The Syrian opposition has reported that Assad’s forces have begun flying again from an air base struck last week by U.S. missiles, and Graham says Assad is telling Trump — “F … you’ — by resuming those flights.

— AP

Egyptian TV shows footage of alleged church bomber in Alexandria

Egyptian television channels are broadcasting CCTV footage they say is of a suicide bomber responsible for one of Sunday’s church bombings.

The two clips show a man wearing a blue sweater draped over his shoulders approach the main gate to St. Mark’s cathedral in Alexandria, before being turned away and directed toward a nearby metal detector.

The man then passes a female police officer chatting to another woman and enters the metal detector before an explosion engulfs the area.

— AP

Trump ‘strongly condemns’ Palm Sunday blasts in Egypt

US President Donald Trump condemns the Coptic church bombings in Egypt that killed at least 37 people.

“So sad to hear of the terrorist attack in Egypt. US strongly condemns. I have great confidence that President el-Sisi will handle situation properly,” Trump writes in a series of tweets.

The attacks in Alexandria and the Nile Delta town of Tanta north of Cairo were claimed by the Islamic State terror group.

Trump met with the Egyptian president on Monday at the White House, during which the US president vowed the two countries would work together to fight terrorism.

— Alexander Fulbright

Lawmakers urge Trump to work with them on Syria

Lawmakers say US President Donald Trump needs to work with Congress on a “long-term” Syria strategy following last week’s US missile strike.

The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says Trump’s decision was a “reaction” to Syria’s use of chemical weapons. Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland says the administration hasn’t been clear on next steps and whether it would escalate a US response if Syrian President Bashar Assad continues his assault on rebel forces with conventional weapons.

The Senate’s No. 2 Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, says Trump’s move sends a strong message to rogue nations, and agrees that the US needs a broader strategy.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina doesn’t think so. He says Trump has the authority to launch additional strikes against Syria.

— AP

Iran’s Khamenei says US Syria strike ‘strategic mistake’

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says the United States made a “strategic mistake” by attacking Syria, Iran’s state news agency IRNA reports.

The onslaught of 59 cruise missiles followed a suspected chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun in northern Syria that killed 87 civilians, including many children.

Tehran has been a key backer of President Bashar Assad in Syria’s six-year civil war, referring to all rebel groups in the country as “terrorists”.

“The United States made a strategic mistake,” Khamenei says.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran will not leave the field (…) in the face of threats,” he says, alluding to suspicions that the United States intended the attack as a sign it was willing to attack other countries including Iran.

“Former American officials created Daesh and the current leaders are reinforcing it,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.


Sissi orders military to protect ‘vital infrastructure’ after church bomgings

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi orders military deployments to protect “vital and important infrastructure” after Islamic State group bombings hit two churches earlier, killing dozens of people.

“President Sissi… has decided to order the military to deploy protection units to guard vital and important infrastructure in all the republic’s provinces,” a statement from the presidency says.

Two church bombings, one in the city of Tanta and the other in Alexandria, killed at least 43 people earlier on Sunday, months after a church was bombed in Cairo.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for all three attacks.


Thousands attend anti-terror vigil in Stockholm

Huge crowds gather in Stockholm for a “Lovefest” vigil against terrorism, two days after a truck attack that police believe was committed by an Uzbek man interested in jihadist groups.

Stockholm city officials say more than 20,000 people are taking part in the vigil, organized after a driver mowed down shoppers in a stolen truck before slamming into the facade of the bustling Ahlens department store on Friday afternoon.

The motive was not known, but the method resembled previous attacks using vehicles in Nice, Berlin and London, all of them claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group.


US national security adviser says efforts to oust IS, Assad ‘simultaneous’

President Donald Trump’s national security adviser is describing US goals to defeat the Islamic State group as well as oust Syrian President Bashar Assad as somewhat “simultaneous.”

H.R. McMaster tells Fox News there is no contradiction between comments by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who says IS must be defeated first, and Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations who contends that getting Assad out is a priority.

McMaster says “there has to be a degree of simultaneous activity as well as sequencing of the defeat of IS first.”

He says Trump’s missile strike was meant as a “very strong signal to Assad and his sponsors” that the U.S. will not stand idly by, and that Russia should now reconsider support for the “murderous regime.”

— AP

Court sentences Arab ex-MK after plea deal upheld

The Beersheba Magistrate’s Court accepts the plea bargain reached between state prosecutors and a former Arab lawmaker accused of exploiting his position to smuggle cellphones and notes to convicted Palestinian terrorists.

The court sentences MK Basel Ghattas, of the Joint (Arab) List’s Balad faction, to two years in jail, 18 months probation, and a NIS 120,000 ($33,000) fine.

As part of the deal, Ghattas last month admitted to the court to smuggling phones into prison, smuggling documents, and breach of trust.

Christians flock to Jerusalem for Palm Sunday celebrations

Thousands of Christian worshipers celebrating Palm Sunday in Jerusalem line the streets in and around the Old City for the annual processions that mark the start of Holy Week, which leads up to Easter.

Outside Damascus gate, the Orthodox and Catholic church scouts accompany clergymen in the procession down the Mount of Olives back towards their respective churches in the Old City.

Christian scouts take part in Palm Sunday celebrations outside the Old City in Jerusalem on April 9, 2017. (Ilan Ben Zion/Times of Israel)
Christian scouts take part in Palm Sunday celebrations outside the Old City in Jerusalem on April 9, 2017. (Ilan Ben Zion/Times of Israel)

Several thousand local Christians, pilgrims and tourists attend the annual celebration under heavy police guard.

— Ilan Ben Zion

State prosecutor expands team investigating Netanyahu — report

State prosecutor Shai Nitzan is reportedly expanding the team investigating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in two separate corruption cases.

According to Channel 10, Nitzan has transferred the cases to the attorney who led the investigation in the Holyland affair, a massive corruption scandal that revolved around former prime minister Ehud Olmert.

Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing in either of the cases against him.

Israel intensifies Sinai travel warning after Egypt bombings

Israel updates its warning against travel to neighboring Egypt’s Sinai region after 43 people were killed in two separate church bombings claimed by the Islamic State.

The anti-terror bureau calls on Israelis already visiting in the Sinai to leave immediately.

“The fatal terrorist attacks which took place today reflect once again the terror capability of the Islamic State,” the statement says.

“In light of the gravity of the threat, the anti-terror bureau advises Israelis currently in the Sinai to leave immediately and return to Israel.”

Last month, the bureau issued a similar warning against travel to the Sinai, a popular destination for Israelis over the week-long Passover holiday that starts at sunset on Monday.


UN Security Council condemns Egypt church bombings

The UN Security Council condemns the bombings of two Coptic Christian churches in Egypt Sunday, calling the attacks “heinous” and “cowardly.”

In a statement, the council urges all member states to cooperate with the Egyptian government in bringing to justice the perpetrators of the attacks, which were claimed by Islamic State.

“They expressed their deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims and to the government of Egypt and they wished a speedy and full recovery to those who were injured,” it says.

“The members of the Security Council reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.”


Swedish media name Stockholm truck attack suspect

Swedish media on Sunday identified the main suspect in the Stockholm truck attack as Rakhmat Akilov, an Uzbek construction worker and father of four, who went underground to avoid being deported from Sweden.

Dailies Expressen and Aftonbladet published Akilov’s name and picture.

Norway raises threat level after bomb found in Olso

Norway’s intelligence agency raises the national threat level after a 17-year-old Russian was arrested on suspicion of placing a homemade bomb in central Oslo.

The domestic intelligence agency PST says an attack was now “probable” rather than “possible,” because of the risk of a copycat attack after recent assaults in Stockholm, Saint Petersburg, London, Berlin, and Nice.

An officer works the scene as police cordon off a large area around a subway station on a busy commercial street Saturday night, April 8, 2017, after finding what they described as a "bomb-like" device, in Oslo, Norway. (Fredrik Varfjell/NTB scanpix via AP)
An officer works the scene as police cordon off a large area around a subway station on a busy commercial street on April 8, 2017, after finding what they described as a “bomb-like” device, in Oslo, Norway. (Fredrik Varfjell/NTB scanpix via AP)

The new threat level will be in place for two months.

“It’s not clear whether the 17-year-old young man intended to commit a terrorist attack,” PST chief Benedicte Bjornland tells reporters.


PM: Billionaire’s testimony in gifts case a ‘futile attempt’ at media coverage

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismisses the police testimony of billionaire British-Israeli businessman Chaim “Poju” Zabludowicz in one of the ongoing corruption investigations into the prime minister as “another futile attempt to arouse media interest.”

Zabludowicz last week was asked by Lahav 433 police investigators to give his testimony while he was visiting Israel. He was asked about gifts he allegedly gave to Netanyahu when the latter served as finance minister and prime minister.

“The testimony of Mr. Zabludowicz cannot yield anything for one simple reason: he never gave any presents, not to the prime minister, not to the Netanyahu family, and was never asked to do so,” a statement from the PMO says.

“This is another futile attempt to arouse media interest in a nonexistent issue,” it says.

Zabludowicz on Saturday told Channel 10 he is not a suspect in the case.

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