ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 145

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Top cop admits footage of police beating Palestinians in al-Aqsa doesn’t look good

Senior official reportedly says police had no choice but to enter mosque after Muslims stockpiled weapons inside but that officers overreacted and footage sparked PR nightmare

Screenshot from video showing Israel Police beating Palestinians inside Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Mosque overnight April 4-5. A police official said police forces came under fire in the mosque. (Twitter screenshot, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Screenshot from video showing Israel Police beating Palestinians inside Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Mosque overnight April 4-5. A police official said police forces came under fire in the mosque. (Twitter screenshot, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

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

IDF to deploy company to Tel Aviv to reinforce cops

Police at the scene of a terror attack on Dizengoff Street, in central Tel Aviv, March 9, 2023. (Avshalom Saassoni/Flash90)
Police at the scene of a terror attack on Dizengoff Street, in central Tel Aviv, March 9, 2023. (Avshalom Saassoni/Flash90)

The Israel Defense Forces says it is deploying one infantry company to assist police in Tel Aviv, given heightened tensions in the region following a series of terror attacks and rocket fire on Israel.

The move is made following orders by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant last night.

The company is currently in basic training. A statement from the military says the troops will be deployed tomorrow.

Soldiers in training have at times been deployed to Israeli cities to pair up with police officers, so they can spread out forces more, as police generally operate in pairs.

Top cop admits not thrilled with footage of officers beating Muslims in al-Aqsa

Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai (right) and Jerusalem District Commander Doron Turgeman tour the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem, March 31, 2023. (Israel Police)
Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai (right) and Jerusalem District Commander Doron Turgeman tour the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem, March 31, 2023. (Israel Police)

Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai appears to admit that officers should not have beaten apprehended Palestinians in the al-Aqsa Mosque last week.

In a Kan public broadcaster interview, Shabtai defends the decision by police to enter the mosque, and says additional force was necessary in order to subdue the roughly 400 rioters who had barricaded themselves inside the mosque with weapons.

“Am I happy with the pictures that came out of there? No,” Shabtai admits. “We’re probing the incident and will learn from it.”

Still, he insists that the officers were not the ones who desecrated the holy site, as opposed to the minority of Palestinian rioters.

Poll: Less than half Likud voters satisfied with Netanyahu’s conduct, want gov’t to remain in place

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on April 2, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Pool/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on April 2, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Pool/Flash90)

A Channel 13 poll shows that 60 percent of the public does not trust the government to manage the ongoing terror wave, while just 27% does and 13% was unsure.

Among Likud voters, the figure is just 48%, with 41% not trusting the government.

Respondents were also asked whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conduct is satisfactory or not. Seventy-one percent said that his conduct has been bad while just 20% said it has been good and 9% were unsure.

Among Likud voters, just 48% said Netanyahu’s conduct has been good while 38% said it has been bad.

Asked what their preferred scenario is going forward, 33% said they prefer another election, 33% said they want Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz’s parties to join the government (ostensibly in place of the far-right Religious Zionism and Otzma Yehudit parties); and 25% said they prefer that the current government remain in place.

Just 43% of Likud voters said they want the current government to remain in place.

Likud would plummet below National Unity, Yesh Atid if new elections were held, poll shows

Yair Lapid (L), Benny Gantz (C) and Benjamin Netanyahu (R) (Flash90)
Yair Lapid (L), Benny Gantz (C) and Benjamin Netanyahu (R) (Flash90)

A poll published tonight on Channel 13 indicates that if elections were held today, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud would plummet from its current 32 seats in the Knesset to just 20, falling well behind Benny Gantz’s National Unity party, which would jump to 29 seats from its current 12 and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, which would fall from its current 24 seats to 21.

This appears to be the first poll by a major network that places Likud in third place, demonstrating the degree of public dissatisfaction with the Netanyahu government’s performance over the past three-plus months.

Respondents gave 11 seats to the far-right Religious Zionism party, nine seats to the Mizrahi ultra-Orthodox Shas party, six seats to the Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, six seats to the majority-Arab Hadash-Ta’al party, five seats for the Islamist Ra’am party, five seats to the secular right-wing Yisrael Beytenu party, four seats to the left-leaning Labor party, four seats to the hardline Arab Balad party and zero seats to the left-wing Meretz party.

If accurate, the pro-Netanyahu bloc would fall well below a majority to just 46 seats while the anti-Netanyahu bloc would easily manage to form a coalition with 64 seats, even without the help of the majority-Arab Hadash-Ta’al and Balad parties.

IDF suspects pro-Palestinian militias, not Iran backed fighters, responsible for Syria rockets

Illustrative: Anti-aircraft fire rises into the sky as Israeli missiles hit air defense positions and other military bases around Damascus, Syria, on May 10, 2018, following what the Israeli military said was an Iranian barrage of rockets against Israeli bases on the Golan Heights. (Syrian Central Military Media, via AP/ File)
Illustrative: Anti-aircraft fire rises into the sky as Israeli missiles hit air defense positions and other military bases around Damascus, Syria, on May 10, 2018, following what the Israeli military said was an Iranian barrage of rockets against Israeli bases on the Golan Heights. (Syrian Central Military Media, via AP/ File)

The IDF believes that pro-Palestinian militias — not Iran-backed Shiite fighters — in Syria were responsible for the firing of three rockets at the Israeli side of the Golan Heights last night, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

Kan says that the IDF struck posts belonging to the Syrian military in response, specifically targeting a division commanded by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s brother in a signal to the authoritarian leader that it holds him responsible for attacks emanating from his territory.

Despite new hardline gov’t, Israel likely to maintain policy barring Jews from Temple Mount at Ramadan’s end

Security forces guard Jewish visitors at the Temple Mount during Passover, in Jerusalem's Old City, April 9, 2023. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)
Security forces guard Jewish visitors at the Temple Mount during Passover, in Jerusalem's Old City, April 9, 2023. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)

Channel 12 reports that Israel is likely to maintain its longheld policy barring Jews from ascending the Temple Mount during the last 10 days of Ramadan, despite its new hardline government, which includes senior ministers who long campaigned on allowing Jewish prayer at the holy site.

There have been questions in recent days whether the policy would change, and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir issued a statement yesterday saying he opposes closing the flashpoint site to Jews, as the security establishment recommends.

Channel 12 says Ben Gvir is still pushing to allow Jews to ascend the site for at least one of those last 10 days of Ramadan — this Wednesday, which will be the last day of Passover.

Top Israeli official admits police overreacted in beating Palestinians inside al-Aqsa

Screenshot from video showing Israel Police beating Palestinians inside Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Mosque overnight April 5. A police official said police forces came under fire in the mosque. (Twitter screenshot, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Screenshot from video showing Israel Police beating Palestinians inside Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Mosque overnight April 5. A police official said police forces came under fire in the mosque. (Twitter screenshot, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

A senior Israeli official tells Channel 12 that footage of police brutally beating apprehended Palestinian worshipers inside Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque earlier this week caused significant damage to Israel.

The official says police had no choice but to enter the mosque, after receiving intelligence that several hundred Palestinians had stockpiled weapons inside to use against Israeli civilians and security forces.

However, the official acknowledges that police went too far in beating the Palestinians to the degree that they did, and says that it legitimized claims that al-Aqsa is in danger, galvanized Israel’s adversaries and caused significant PR harm to Israel on the global stage.

The senior official tells Channel 12 that the conduct of officers needs to be reviewed since they had been told beforehand to act with restraint.

Meanwhile, another security official tells the network that the Jordan-backed Islamic Waqf that administers the Temple Mount/al-Aqsa compound is not doing enough to clamp down on Palestinian rioters.

IDF reportedly to divert battalion from terrorist manhunt to secure settler march to outpost

Israeli settlers march with flags at the illegal West Bank outpost of Evyatar on June 21, 2021. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
Israeli settlers march with flags at the illegal West Bank outpost of Evyatar on June 21, 2021. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Earlier today, The Times of Israel reported that security officials are warning that a West Bank march planned by right-wing groups on Monday will put more pressure on security forces already “spread thin” by skyrocketing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.

Haaretz now reveals that an entire IDF battalion will be diverted from the manhunt after the perpetrators of the Jordan Valley deadly terror attack over the weekend in order to secure the settler march.

Security officials pushed back on the government’s demand to secure the march but were overruled, Haaretz says.

Gallant vows IDF will capture perpetrators of West Bank shooting attack

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks with the commander of the IDF's Menashe Brigade, Col. Arik Moyal, April 9, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/ Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks with the commander of the IDF's Menashe Brigade, Col. Arik Moyal, April 9, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/ Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant vows the military will capture the terrorists who killed British-Israeli sisters Maia and Rina Dee in the Jordan Valley on Friday.

“Any terrorist who thinks they may elude the IDF during the holy days is gravely mistaken,” says Gallant, in remarks provided by his office, following a tour of the northern West Bank with military officials.

“Anyone who attempts even the slightest harm, will be brought to justice,” he adds.

The briefing in the area focused on “counterterrorism activities, the search for the terrorists who conducted attacks in the region, and the need to contend with infiltration attempts,” according to his office.

Saudi delegation in Yemen for peace talks with Iran-backed rebels

Yemeni police inspect a site of Saudi-led airstrikes targeting two houses in Sana'a, Yemen, March 26, 2022. (AP Photo/ Hani Mohammed)
Yemeni police inspect a site of Saudi-led airstrikes targeting two houses in Sana'a, Yemen, March 26, 2022. (AP Photo/ Hani Mohammed)

A Saudi delegation is in Yemen’s capital to negotiate a potential new truce with the Iran-backed Huthi rebels who control the city, diplomats said, as Riyadh sought a way out of the war.

The Saudi officials are “in Sanaa to discuss moving forward to create peace in Yemen,” says a Yemeni diplomat based in the Gulf region, information that was confirmed by a second diplomat.

Saudi officials have not responded to requests for comment.

The delegation’s arrival comes roughly a month after China helped broker a surprise rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, fueling hopes for progress on ending the Yemen conflict that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

The top Saudi and Iranian diplomats met in Beijing on Thursday, pledging to work together to bring “security and stability” to their turbulent region.

Omani mediators arrived in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, on Saturday.

The Huthis seized the city in 2014, triggering the conflict with the internationally recognized government, which has been backed for eight years by a military coalition led by Riyadh.

A truce announced roughly a year ago has significantly reduced active hostilities within Yemen, and is still largely respected even though it officially expired in October.

A Yemeni government source, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, said on Saturday that the Saudis and Huthis had agreed in principle on a six-month truce to pave the way for three months of talks on establishing a two-year “transition” for the war-torn country.

The deal is expected to fulfil key Huthi goals, including paying salaries of civil servants in Huthi-controlled areas, and lifting operational restrictions on Huthi-controlled airports and ports.

Also on Saturday, the head of the Huthis’ prisoners of war committee told rebel media that 13 prisoners freed by the Saudis had arrived in Sanaa, in exchange for one Saudi released earlier.

Saudi officials have not commented on the report.

In early March, the United Nations confirmed that the rebels and Yemen’s internationally recognized government had agreed to exchange more than 880 prisoners.

Heads of rocket-struck areas in north blackballed by Netanyahu

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held talks with some local leaders from northern Israel seeking to reassure them following rocket attacks, the heads of three heavily affected local councils say they were not invited to the talks and only heard of them through the media.

The mayors of Metulla, Shlomi and the Mateh Asher Regional Council say they were not contacted, despite taking much of the rocket fire Thursday. According to Channel 12 news, the three met Saturday with National Unity head Benny Gantz, who traveled to the north in solidarity following the attacks last week.

“I really hope there was not some sort of selection of which local leaders the prime minister chose to talk to,” writes Mateh Asher head Moshe Davidovich, whose work as head of a group lobbying for more funding for bomb shelters and other defensive means has brought him into occasional conflict with the government.

Gabi Ne’eman, mayor of the border town of Shlomi, which saw a number of rockets land adjacent, tells Ynet he was surprised and “very disappointed” to not hear from Netanyahu or Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. Metulla Mayor David Azulay tells the news site he just wants the government to keep its promises.

A spokesperson for Netanyahu tells Channel 12 that the premier’s office tried to get in touch with the three, but they did not pick up the phone. However, the channel reports that there were no missed calls to the relevant authorities.

Car possibly used in Jordan Valley attack found in Nablus — reports

A car apparently used by Palestinian terrorists who killed Israeli sisters Maia and Rina Dee in the Jordan Valley on Friday has been found by Palestinian Authority security forces in Nablus, according to reports circulating on social media.

Locals in Nablus claim the Volkswagen Passat, which has Israeli license plates, was found in the northern West Bank city two days after the deadly shooting attack.

The unverified reports say the car was taken by PA officials for inspection.

Images show that the plates match the car seen in surveillance camera footage shortly after the attack. The terrorists who carried out the attack are still at large.

Iran sending delegation to Saudi Arabia ahead of embassy reopening

Iran’s foreign ministry says a delegation will visit Saudi Arabia by Friday to pave the way for reopening its diplomatic missions there following a similar move by Riyadh.

The announcement comes a day after a Saudi delegation arrived in Tehran on a similar diplomatic trip, and follows a historic meeting between the two Gulf countries’ foreign ministers in China.

“We are expecting a foreign ministry delegation to visit Saudi Arabia” by Friday, Deputy Foreign Minister Alireza Enayati says in an interview with state television.

“Two separate delegations will go to Riyadh and Jeddah,” ahead of reopening Iran’s embassy and consulate respectively.

Saudi Arabia severed relations with Iran in January 2016, after its embassy in Tehran and consulate in the northwestern city of Mashhad were attacked by protesters demonstrating over Riyadh’s execution of Saudi opposition Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan met in the Chinese capital on Thursday after Tehran and Riyadh agreed last month to restore diplomatic ties.

In a joint statement, the ministers pledged to bring back security and stability to the turbulent Gulf.

Likud: Lapid is playing politics while Israel is under threat

Responding to opposition leader Yair Lapid’s accusations that the government is sowing dangerous chaos, the Likud party charges that he is the one endangering Israel by refusing to telegraph a message of unity.

“While Israel is fighting on three fronts… Yair Lapid chose to engage in small-minded politics rather than broadcasting a message of unequivocal unity to our enemies,” the statement reads.

The party accuses Lapid of causing “critical harm” by agreeing to a deal with Lebanon delineating maritime borders and claims he is widely quoted in Iran as someone forecasting Israel’s downfall.

“At a time when [Hezbollah head Hassan] Nasrallah and [Hamas head Ismail] Haniyeh are sitting together under a picture of the Iranian patron who calls for our annihilation, I would expect more national responsibility from the opposition leader,” says Likud.

Lapid: I left Netanyahu meet more worried than when I went in

Speaking to the nation in a televised address, opposition head Yair Lapid says he left a security briefing with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu more worried than when he went in.

Lapid does not say specifically what caused his worries, but details the talking-to he gave the premier.

“I told Netanyahu that… he needs to announce that he has taken the firing of Defense Minister Yaov Gallant off the table, to admit that he cannot rely on his cabinet and to create a small, stable security forum to deal with the situation.”

He also says he told Netanyahu to strip Internal Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir of any responsibility for the Temple Mount.

“We can’t have a TikTok clown who has lost the trust of the police and forces in the field managing things,” he says.

He blames the instability and chaos from within Netanyahu’s cabinet for the security travails.

“What our enemies in all arenas see is an unfit government. A cabinet nobody trusts. A defense minister on probation who was fired for speaking the truth. A national security minister who leaks recordings of the police chief. A finance minister who says he wants to wipe out villages.”

In tearful eulogy, father recalls slain daughters’ dreams for future

Rabbi Leo Dee eulogizes his two daughters Maia and Rina, who were killed in a terror attack on April 7, 2023, at their funeral on April 9, 2023. (Noam Revkin Fenton/FLASH90)
Rabbi Leo Dee eulogizes his two daughters Maia and Rina, who were killed in a terror attack on April 7, 2023, at their funeral on April 9, 2023. (Noam Revkin Fenton/FLASH90)

Rabbi Leo Dee eulogizes his two daughters Maia and Rina who were killed in a terror attack on Friday at their funeral in Kfar Etzion on Sunday.

Dee recalls his daughters’ dedication to their studies, their commitment to the country, and the hopes and dreams they had for the future.

He also prays for his wife who was critically injured in the terror attack, and thanks friends, neighbors and well-wishers for their help in the days following the incident.

“My beautiful perfect Maia, we named you ‘God’s water’ and you were so many people’s friend, flowing between so many different groups… You were always an angel, now you will always be our guardian angel,” says Dee tearfully.

The family of Maia and Rina Dee mourn during the sisters’ funeral in Kfar Etzion on April 9, 2023. (Noam Revkin Fenton/FLASH90)

Addressing Rina, he describes her as a dedicated student and friend, and a responsible person who others relied upon and trusted.

“My darling Rina, you would tidy the youth club for hours by yourself. People loved you and knew they could depend on you,” he recalls.

“You dreamed of traveling the world, now you’re traveling to Heaven,” says Dee. “Maia and Rina you are two flames who have not gone out. You will bring more light to the world. You have inspired and loved us, in return we will love you forever.”

Minister says everyone, not just government, to blame for security morass

After claiming that his party should not be blamed for failing to deal with security challenges due to an “insurrection” among defense brass, Otzma Yehudit minister Amichai Eliyahu has adopted a new tactic for avoiding responsibility: It’s your fault too.

“It’s everyone’s responsibility, this is everyone’s country and the government is just one small part of this puzzle. I suggest everyone take responsibility,” the heritage minister tells Army Radio.

Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu arrives at a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on January 29, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The comments come weeks after Eliyahu and friends approved a budget of nearly $500 billion for that small puzzle piece, including billions more for Otzma Yehudit head Itamar Ben Gvir to carry out an expensive reorganization of the police ministry, which will result in giving him more control over security forces.

Members of the government, many of whom campaigned on returning law and order to Israel’s streets and security to its frontiers are facing tough questions amid a rash of deadly terror attacks, rocket assaults on two borders and a flareup of inter-communal tensions.

Netanyahu meets Lapid face-to-face for security update

Yair Lapid, left, Avi Gil, center, and Benjamin Netanyahu at a meeting at military HQ in Tel Aviv on April 9, 2023. (Government handout)
Yair Lapid, left, Avi Gil, center, and Benjamin Netanyahu at a meeting at military HQ in Tel Aviv on April 9, 2023. (Government handout)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition head Yair Lapid have held a rare face-to-face meeting, in order to discuss the security situation.

A picture of the meeting at military headquarters in Tel Aviv shows both politicians sitting tensely as military secretary Avi Gil looks on with a nervous smile.

On Twitter, Channel 12 correspondent Amit Segal juxtaposes the picture with one from a year ago when the tables were turned, the shelves were emptier and the smiles easier to come by.

 

Woman injured in apparent Kiryat Tivon gas blast

A 70-year-old woman is hospitalized in serious but stable condition with extensive burns suffered when a suspected gas canister exploded in a northern Israel home.

Medics say the woman was pulled out of the Kiryat Tivon home with second degree burns all over her body. She was stabilized and rushed to a hospital.

Rescuers said the explosion caused “extensive destruction.”

There is no immediate word from authorities on a cause for the blast.

Hundreds gather for funeral of terror victims Maia and Rina Dee

The family of Maia and Rina Dee outside their home in Efrat ahead of the two sisters' funeral on April 9, 2023. (Gershon Elinson/FLASH90)
The family of Maia and Rina Dee outside their home in Efrat ahead of the two sisters' funeral on April 9, 2023. (Gershon Elinson/FLASH90)

Hundreds of mourners have gathered for the funeral in Kfar Etzion of sisters Maia Dee, 20, and Rina Dee, 15, who were slain by Palestinian gunmen on Friday in the northern West Bank.

The mourners sing psalms and songs of lamentation, loss, and hope as they await the arrival of the funeral procession to the cemetery.

Udi Abramovitch, the head of the Midreshet Lindenbaum Lod religious seminary where Maia studied, says she had been a dedicated student who loved books and her religious studies.

“Maia loved the Land of Israel, she loved excursions around the country and would say how beautiful every place was,” says Abramovitch.

Among the mourners are congregants of the Radlett, UK, synagogue where the girls’ father Leo Dee served as rabbi for four years.

They describe the family as “very hospitable,” who always had their house open for guests.

Maia (left) and Rina Dee, sisters who were killed in a terrorist shooting attack in the West Bank on April 7, 2023. (Courtesy of the family)

“We’re devastated, they are a lovely family,” says one congregant who declined to give her name.

“They always talked about making aliyah, we always knew they would come back to Israel but they wanted to bring a bit of Israel and Judaism to Radlett first,” they say.

More Border Police reserves companies join mass mobilization

Reserve Border Police officers are drafted at a police station, April 9, 2023. (Israel Police)
Reserve Border Police officers are drafted at a police station, April 9, 2023. (Israel Police)

Four reserve Border Police companies have been drafted amid heightened tensions across the country, joining another six deployed in recent weeks.

The companies are operating in the central, northern, coastal, and southern regions to “strengthen security in city centers and crowded areas,” police say.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday evening ordered the mobilization of all 26 reserve Border Police companies.

Law enforcement officials say they are prepared to draft additional Border Police companies following recent terror attacks and rocket fire on Israel, should it be necessary.

Senator to undergo surgery after breaking leg at UConn parade

US Sen. Richard Blumenthal says he expects to undergo surgery to repair a broken leg he suffered Saturday during a victory parade for the University of Connecticut men’s basketball team.

In a tweet, Blumenthal says a fellow parade goer tripped and fell on him during the event in Hartford, Connecticut, to celebrate the team winning the NCAA basketball title on April 4 in Houston.

The 77-year-old Democrat says he is awaiting “routine surgery” on his femur scheduled for Sunday and expects a full recovery.

“What can I say, I love a parade!” he tweets.

Connecticut’s other US senator, Chris Murphy, tweets that “after he broke his femur he got back up, dusted himself off, and FINISHED THE PARADE. Most Dick Blumenthal thing ever.”

Blumenthal is serving his third term in the Senate after being reelected in November.

Minister accuses defense leadership of ‘insurrection’

Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu of Otzma Yehudit is accusing the country’s defense leadership of a deep-state style conspiracy undermining the government’s ability to provide security for its citizens.

Asked on Twitter about his hardline law-and-order party’s propensity for making promises, when in fact the nation has slid into a deep security crisis, Eliyahu answers that his party will keep making promises.

“It’s complicated. When the country has leaders in the defense array who are acting on ‘insurrection’ footing, nobody can take that into account,” he tweets.

The comment draws swift fire from opposition leader Yair Lapid, who shoots back that Eliyahu should show receipts or be booted.

“We don’t have another IDF. The incitement against the defense community is out of control,” he says.

Holiday overcrowding shutters beaches, parks

Israelis crowd the beach in Tel Aviv on a hot day, during the Passover holiday. April 9, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/FLASH90)
Israelis crowd the beach in Tel Aviv on a hot day, during the Passover holiday. April 9, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/FLASH90)

Authorities are shutting access to most public camping beaches around the Sea of Galilee due to overcrowding by masses of Israeli Passover vacationers flocking to its gravelly shores.

The Union of Kinneret Cities, which administers public beaches around the large freshwater lake, says some 30,000 people are currently on the beaches and parking areas at every one of them are full, forcing them to shut access to all except Dugit Beach on the Galilee’s eastern shore.

The Parks and Nature Authority says some 200,000 people visited its sites Sunday, forcing it to shut the Yarkon and Ein Hanya national parks, near Petah Tikva and Jerusalem respectively. It also restricts vehicle access to Beit Yanai Beach and reports heavy crowding at other sites.

Dramatic rise in hate crimes by Jewish extremists reported

Authorities registered 23 hate crime incidents by suspected Jewish extremists over the past weekend, a sharp rise over the previous weekend when four such incidents were recorded, Army Radio reports.

The crimes include a number of incidents of vandalism against Palestinian homes and arson attacks on vehicles.

The station quotes a chorus of defense forces saying “these incidents bring more terror and directly harm other efforts, chiefly the hunt for the terrorists who carried out the Jordan Valley attack.”

Two British-Israeli sisters were killed and their mom critically wounded in a shooting attack along a West Bank road on Friday.

Temple Mount clash avoided when police realized worshipers not planning attack

Claims that Muslim worshippers were barricading themselves inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque overnight to be ready to attack Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount in the morning may have been unfounded, hence the police decision to not enter the compound to clear it out Sunday morning.

Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer tells CNN that “fortunately today, we didn’t have to go in, because the people who were in there did not go there according to our intelligence to perpetrate violence. And so therefore there were no incidents.”

After hours of reports that Muslims had barricaded themselves inside with weapons, police had been said early Sunday to be readying to go in to clear out the compound to allow Jewish visitors. Instead, police began allowing the Jewish visitors to enter, with police deployed to protect the groups Sunday morning.

According to Israel’s Channel 12 news, police did not raid the mosque after it was determined that those inside had not brought objects with them that could be used to carry out attacks.

The channel claimed that the group inside was nonetheless “evacuated in relative quiet” as Jewish visitors arrived. Previous reports had pointed to possible behind the scenes talks to convince the would-be rioters to stand down.

Dermer says that cops feared a repeat of violence last week, when worshipers and security forces clashed, leading to widespread condemnation of Israeli police actions to quell the rioting.

“You had about 300 young men, who were masked and who armed themselves with rocks and with incendiary explosives and with weapons,” he said, claiming they planned to attack innocent bystanders.

“What peaceful worshippers would actually use fireworks and desecrate the mosque? We do not want to go in there,” he adds. “I think it’s happened three times in the last half-dozen years. It is the last thing that we want to do.”

Israel to continue aiding Ukrainian refugees

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office says that humanitarian aid for Ukrainian refugees in Israel will be given an extension.

The aid includes a visa extension and unspecified help on “health and welfare.”

The short statement announcing the extension does not say when the aid will now expire.

Pope calls for Israeli-Palestinian talks in Easter message

Pope Francis bestows the plenary 'Urbi et Orbi' (to the city and to the world) blessing from the central lodge of the St. Peter's Basilica at The Vatican at the end of the Easter Sunday mass, Sunday, April 9, 2023. (AP/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis bestows the plenary 'Urbi et Orbi' (to the city and to the world) blessing from the central lodge of the St. Peter's Basilica at The Vatican at the end of the Easter Sunday mass, Sunday, April 9, 2023. (AP/Alessandra Tarantino)

Pope Francis uses his traditional Easter address to call for renewed peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, and for an end to the violence threatening to subsume the region.

Francis urges the “resumption of dialogue, in a climate of trust and reciprocal respect, between Israelis and Palestinians, so that peace may reign in the Holy City and in the entire region,” a reference to Jerusalem.

He also urges the international community to work to end the war in Ukraine and “all conflict and bloodshed in the world, beginning with Syria, which still awaits peace.” Francis also prays for those who lost loved ones in an earthquake that struck Syria and Turkey two months ago, claiming tens of thousands of lives.

The pope’s Easter message is known by its Latin name, ”Urbi et Orbi,” which means “to the city and the world.” It traditionally addresses troubled places around the globe.

Still recovering from bronchitis, Francis, 86, skipped the traditional Good Friday procession at Rome’s Colosseum due to unseasonably cold nighttime temperatures.

Francis has generally rebounded following a three-day stay last week at a Rome hospital where he was administered antibiotics intravenously for bronchitis. He was discharged on April 1.

But near the end of the more than two-hour-long Easter Sunday appearance, Francis seemed to start running out of steam. His voice grew hoarse and he interrupted his speech at one point to cough.

Journalism prize recognizes diaspora correspondent

The B’nai B’rith World Center names Judah Ari Gross as runner-up for its Award for Journalism Recognizing Excellence in Diaspora Reportage, recognizing his reporting on Jewish communities throughout the world for The Times of Israel.

Gross wins the certificate of merit award alongside Maariv’s Josh Aronson for “articles spanning Jewish communities in Kyrgyzstan, the U.S., Great Britain, Poland and Ukraine,” B’nai B’rith says in a statement.

Top prize goes to Itamar Eichner of Yedioth Ahronoth for coverage of Jewish communities in the US, Europe and particularly Ukraine.

Gross, who covered the military and religion and diaspora affairs for The Times of Israel for 8 years, left in March. He is now news editor for ejewishphilanthropy.com

Jordan condemns Israeli incursions onto Temple Mount

Jordan is condemning Jewish visits to the Temple Mount, warning of “catastrophic consequences” should Israel not cease what it says are violations of the status quo at the fragile holy site.

A statement from Jordan’s foreign ministry spokesman Sinan Majali carried by the country’s official Petra mouthpiece warns “that the Israeli police forces’ violation of the sanctity of the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque / Al-Haram Al-Qudsi Al-Sharif and assaulting worshipers again in an attempt to empty it of worshipers, in preparation for major incursions into the mosque, will push the situation towards more tension and violence, for which everyone will pay the price.”

A slightly different statement carried by Petra in Arabic makes clear that Jordan is condemning Jewish visits under Israeli police protection and notes that only Muslim prayer is permitted at the site. It claims exclusive jurisdiction for the Jordanian-funded Waqf, which administers the site.

“The Israeli government bears responsibility for the escalation in Jerusalem and in all the occupied Palestinian territories and for the deterioration that will worsen” if it does not halt incursions into the holy site or “terrorization” of worshipers, the statement reads.

Some 1,000 Jewish visitors have ascended the Temple Mount since the start of the Passover holiday last week, 842 on Sunday morning alone, according to an umbrella group of organizations lobbying for greater Jewish access to the site.

PM speaks with northern, southern mayors after rocket fire

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on April 2, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Pool/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on April 2, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Pool/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with mayors and leaders of communities in southern Israel and northern Israel, vowing to restore calm amid a tense period, his office says.

“This challenging time for our security, our enemies were mistaken by thinking that the citizens of Israel are not united behind the IDF,” Netanyahu tells the officials, according to a statement.

“We are all united behind the security of the country and will do everything to ensure calm and security for us all,” he says.

Netanyahu thanks the mayors and community leaders for their citizens’ “steadfastness” amid rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, and Syria in recent days, his office adds.

According to Channel 12, he also said that “the last word has not been said” as regards the escalation and Israel’s response, without elaborating.

IDF orders cancellation of Sderot concert amid tensions following rocket fire

Rocket damage to a house in the Israeli city of Sderot is seen on April 7, 2023. (Flash90)
Rocket damage to a house in the Israeli city of Sderot is seen on April 7, 2023. (Flash90)

The Sderot municipality says a planned concert this evening in the southern city has been canceled on orders of the head of the IDF Southern Command due to heightened tensions following recent rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

In a statement, the city says, “In the last few days our routine was disrupted by the terror organizations, a house was damaged and residents were injured and needed medical treatment.”

“We are in tense times security-wise, and therefore, with all our great desire to celebrate Passover with the excellent artist Hanan Ben Ari in a concert at the municipal stadium, the commander of the Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Eliezer Toledano, instructed us not to hold the concert in order to take extra precautions,” it says.

There are no special instructions issued by the military’s Home Front Command following the launching of dozens of rockets from the Strip over the past week.

 

Hezbollah’s Nasrallah meets with Hamas chief Haniyeh for Beirut talks on cooperation against Israel

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah (back right) meets with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (back left) and a delegation from the terror group in Beirut, Lebanon, April 9, 2023. (Twitter photo screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah (back right) meets with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (back left) and a delegation from the terror group in Beirut, Lebanon, April 9, 2023. (Twitter photo screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Hezbollah terror chief Hassan Nasrallah meets with a delegation led by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Beirut, days after rocket fire from southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

Lebanese media report the two terror chiefs discussed the “axis of resistance” and cooperation between their terror groups against Israel amid the escalation in violence.

Hezbollah has close ties with Hamas, which rules Gaza, and with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, which is also based in the coastal enclave.

The meeting came as tensions soared across the region, with barrages of rockets from Lebanon and Syria; tit-for-tat rocket fire from the Gaza Strip and Israeli strikes; clashes at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Temple Mount; deadly terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank; as well as a suspected Iranian drone launched from Syria earlier in the week.

Thousands attend priestly blessing in Jerusalem despite fears of violence

Thousands gather at the Western Wall in Jerusalem for the semi-annual priestly blessing ceremony, April 9, 2023. (Noam Revkin/Flash90)
Thousands gather at the Western Wall in Jerusalem for the semi-annual priestly blessing ceremony, April 9, 2023. (Noam Revkin/Flash90)

Thousands attend the biannual priestly blessing at Jerusalem’s Western Wall plaza, despite a string of deadly terror attacks and rocket fire in recent days.

The blessing, a mass prayer event, which this year falls on Ramadan, is less attended than in previous years, when worshippers clad in prayer shawls packed the men’s section of the Western Wall area to capacity.

One male worshiper, Ohad David, a resident of the West Bank settlement of Givat Ze’ev, came alone to the blessing instead of with his three boys, as he had originally planned.

“There’s no question of abandoning the custom because of a few terror attacks, but there’s also no need to pretend the circumstances are ideal for bringing children to the Old City,” David, 42, says.

Police and soldiers are stationed throughout the Old City of Jerusalem as part of an emergency deployment.

Occurring on Passover and Sukkot, the traditional benediction sees male descendants of the Kohanim priestly caste gather to bless crowds.

The worshipers raise their hands as those conducting the blessing also cover their heads with prayer shawls.

Several hundred Jews have also visited the Temple Mount under heavy police guard.

The events are taking place amid simmering tensions after a spike in violence in recent days.

Mossad on US reports that spy agency heads stirred anti-overhaul protests: ‘Completely false, absurd’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Mossad chief David Barnea at a pre-Passover toast April 4, 2023. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Mossad chief David Barnea at a pre-Passover toast April 4, 2023. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

The Prime Minister’s Office issues a statement on behalf of the Mossad, denying US reports that senior officials at the spy agency encouraged its employees and citizens to protest the government’s contentious judicial overhaul plans.

“The publication in the American press is completely false and absurd,” the statement reads.

“The Mossad and its officials did not and do not encourage employees in the organization to go to demonstrations against the government, to political demonstrations in general, or to any political activity,” the statement reads.

“The Mossad and its incumbent officials did not deal at all with the issue of the protests, and have remained loyal to the value of stateliness that have guided the Mossad since its establishment,” the statement concludes.

Experts have suggested that the US intel report may have confused former officials with serving ones, or that it may be an attempt at misinformation.

In February, it was reported that Mossad chief David Barnea allowed junior employees of the intelligence agency to take part in the protests. Department heads and anyone more senior was barred from taking part, the Hebrew media reports added.

Israelis traveling to Sinai in ‘unprecedented numbers’ for Passover

Israelis cross into Egypt through the Taba Border Crossing, in the southern Israeli city of Eilat, April 17, 2022. (Flash90)
Israelis cross into Egypt through the Taba Border Crossing, in the southern Israeli city of Eilat, April 17, 2022. (Flash90)

Ofer Lefler, spokesman for the Israel Airports Authority, says Israelis have been crossing the Egyptian border to Sinai in unprecedented numbers this Passover.

He anticipates that 200,000 will make the crossing in the course of the festival.

“An unprecedented number,” he tells Army Radio.

Ben Gurion Airport is also working at a very high capacity, with almost 80,000 using the airport each day on average, and an expected 2.2 million for the month.

He says the biggest challenge the Authority has is in recruiting staff.

Dad of sisters killed in West Bank terror attack: ‘We are confident that justice will be done’

Maia (left) and Rina Dee, sisters who were killed in a terrorist shooting attack in the West Bank on April 7, 2023. (Courtesy of the family)
Maia (left) and Rina Dee, sisters who were killed in a terrorist shooting attack in the West Bank on April 7, 2023. (Courtesy of the family)

The father of two sisters shot dead in a terror attack in the West Bank on Friday says he believes “justice will be done.”

Rabbi Leo Dee’s daughters 20-year-old Maia and 15-year-old Rina were killed when Palestinian gunmen opened fire at their car, causing it to crash into the highway’s shoulder. The terrorists then opened fire at the car again, killing the two sisters and critically wounding their mother.

“We are saddened about the current political tension in Israel which is caused by a lack of trust in its first religious Zionist government,” Dee says.

“Some people think that a religious government will suppress minority rights and become totalitarian,” he says in a statement to Britain’s The Telegraph newspaper.

“But this is not a risk in Israel as religious Jews simply believe in balancing love and justice. For our part, we have felt a warm hug of love from Jews in Israel and beyond and we are confident that justice will be done,” he says.

The attorney general has warned that the coalition’s current package of legislation — which would give the coalition almost complete control over all judicial appointments, and radically constrain the High Court — would hand the government virtually unrestrained power, without providing any institutional protections for individual rights or for Israel’s democratic character.

Protests against the government’s contentious judicial overhaul on Saturday night began with a minute’s silence in memory of the Dee sisters, as well as Italian national Alessandro Parini, a 35-year-old lawyer from Rome, who was killed in a suspected ramming attack in Tel Aviv.

The Dee sisters are set to be buried at the cemetery of the Kfar Ezion settlement. In a statement, the Gush Etzion regional council said the procession would begin at 4:15 p.m. in Efrat. Mourners would then march to the Kfar Ezion cemetery, where the sisters would be buried at 5 p.m.

Police decide not to enter Al-Aqsa mosque, Jewish visitors start to arrive on Temple Mount

File: Israeli security forces guard near Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, during the holy month of Ramadan April 5, 2023. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)
File: Israeli security forces guard near Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, during the holy month of Ramadan April 5, 2023. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)

According to reports, police decide not to enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and begin to allow Jewish visitors onto the flashpoint Temple Mount site after the conclusion of dawn prayers.

The Jewish visitors are under police guard as they enter the compound in groups of around 20. Some Muslim worshippers at the site shout at the Jewish visitors, but there are no reports of violence.

The Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, is the holiest site for Jews and the third-holiest shrine in Islam.

Israel has vowed repeatedly to maintain the status quo at the site, whereby Jews are allowed to visit there — under numerous restrictions and only during limited hours — but not pray. However, Jews have increasingly been allowed to quietly pray there, while Palestinians have instigated violence at the site and unilaterally designated more parts of the site for prayer.

Israel, as in previous years, is reportedly set to bar Jews from entering the Temple Mount holy site during the last 10 days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Thousands begin to gather at Western Wall for Passover priestly blessing

Thousands gather at the Western Wall in Jerusalem for the semi-annual priestly blessing ceremony, April 9, 2023 (Screenshot)
Thousands gather at the Western Wall in Jerusalem for the semi-annual priestly blessing ceremony, April 9, 2023 (Screenshot)

Thousands begin to gather at the Western Wall in Jerusalem for the semi-annual priestly blessing ceremony, amid simmering tensions.

The event, known in Hebrew as “birkat kohanim,” is held on the intermediate days of the Passover and Sukkot festivals. It usually draws tens of thousands of worshippers, with crowds spilling out from the wall’s plaza into the surrounding areas.

According to Channel 12 news, security officials are concerned that violence may spill over into the Western Wall plaza — hundreds of Palestinian worshippers reportedly barricaded themselves inside Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque in the flashpoint Temple Mount holy site, and Israeli forces prevented some Muslim worshipers from accessing the site for Ramadan prayers.

However it appeared that forces did not enter the mosque.

Syrian army claims it intercepted some Israeli missiles, strikes caused damage

The Syrian army claims its air defenses intercepted some of the Israeli missiles fired toward its targets overnight.

The Israeli military conducted several rounds of strikes in retaliation for six rockets launched toward the Golan Heights, three of which crossed into Israeli territory.

The Syrian army, according to state media, says the strikes caused damage, without mentioning casualties.

Palestinian media claims some Muslims barred from entering Temple Mount

Amid simmering tensions, Palestinian media reports claim Israeli forces have prevented some Muslim worshipers from accessing the Temple Mount for Ramadan prayers, and that they are holding prayers outside instead.

Some unverified reports indicate that hundreds of people who have barricaded themselves for many hours inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque have reopened the mosque’s gates.

However, it is yet to be seen if clashes can be avoided this morning, as Jews are set to visit the flashpoint holy site in Jerusalem and masses are expected at the adjacent Western Wall for the traditional Priestly Blessing prayers for Passover.

IDF says latest airstrikes targeted Syrian army base, radar, artillery post

The Israeli military says the latest Air Force raids in Syria targeted a military compound belonging to the Syrian army’s 4th Division, as well as a radar and artillery posts used by the army.

The strikes were a retaliation to six rockets launched from Syria toward the Golan Heights last night and early this morning, of which three crossed into Israeli territory.

The IDF earlier responded with artillery and drone strikes targeting the rocket launchers used to fire the projectiles.

The IDF adds that it “views the Syrian state as responsible for everything happening in its territory and will not enable attempts to violate Israel’s sovereignty.”

Israel said to launch more strikes in Syria following rocket barrages

The Israeli military is again conducting strikes in Syrian territory, according to Israeli and Syrian media reports, hours after the Israel Defense Forces targeted launch pads used to fire rockets toward Israel.

Syria’s state news agency SANA says explosions have been heard near the capital Damascus.

Hundreds of Palestinians holing up in Al-Aqsa Mosque as forces expected to remove them

Israeli security forces patrol outside the Dome of the Rock shrine in Jerusalem's Temple Mount compound during Ramadan and Passover, late on April 8, 2023. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)
Israeli security forces patrol outside the Dome of the Rock shrine in Jerusalem's Temple Mount compound during Ramadan and Passover, late on April 8, 2023. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

Hundreds of Palestinians have for hours been barricading themselves inside Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque in the flashpoint Temple Mount holy site and are refusing to disperse.

Many Israeli police forces are deployed in the area and are expected at some point to enter the mosque to remove the Palestinians, who are threatening to disrupt morning visits by Jews to the site and to attempt to attack Jewish masses set to attend the annual Priestly Blessing prayers at the Western Wall for Passover.

Jordan’s Waqf authorities have refused to remove the Palestinians, and Amman has claimed Israel is trying to “fabricate the facts” and demanded that Israel stop its “attacks on worshipers.”

IDF uses drone to strike Syria launch pads from which rockets were fired into Israel

The Israel Defense Forces says it has used a remotely operated drone to strike the launch pads used earlier to fire rockets from Syria toward the Golan Heights.

Six projectiles were fired in two separate barrages, three of which crossed into Israeli territory.

Residents of southern Golan told to open bomb shelters, stay near safe zones

The Golan Regional Council orders residents of the southern Golan Heights to open public bomb shelters and stay near safe zones after six rockets were launched from Syria toward Israeli towns in two separate barrages in recent hours.

The council also tells residents to follow the updating Home Front Command orders.

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