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

Lebanon: Israeli operation against tunnels won’t affect calm

Lebanon’s president says Israel’s operation to destroy Hezbollah attack tunnels across the border won’t endanger the calm along the frontier.

Michel Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, says Lebanon takes the tunnels issue “seriously” and is prepared to “take measures to remove causes of disagreement” after a full report on the situation.

Aoun says the United States has informed Lebanon that Israel has “no aggressive intentions,” adding that his country too has “no aggressive intentions.”

Israel launched an operation to destroy a series of tunnels last week, showing one to UN peacekeepers and calling it a violation of the ceasefire that ended the 2006 war with Hezbollah.

Aoun spoke alongside Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, who plans to visit Austrian peacekeepers in the south.

— AP

Report: Iran sentences 3 rights lawyers to prison

Iran sentences two human rights lawyers to six years in prison and a third to 13 years, newspapers report.

The Arman daily says Ghasem Sholeh-Saadi and Arash Keikhosravi were sentenced to five years in prison for taking part in an “illegal gathering” and one year for “propaganda” against the ruling system. It says they can appeal the verdict.

The two were arrested in August when they took part in a protest outside parliament calling for free elections. They were released on bail last week.

Sholeh-Saadi, 64, a longtime critic of the political establishment, was barred from running for president in 2017.

Ghasem Sholeh-Saadi speaks with media as he registers his candidacy for an upcoming presidential election in Tehran, Iran, May 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iran holds regular presidential and parliamentary elections, but a council of clerics vets candidates. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final word on all major policies.

The Hamshari daily meanwhile reports that a court in the central city of Arak sentenced another lawyer to 13 years in prison.

It says Mohammad Najafi was sentenced to 10 years for “conveying information to a hostile country” through interviews with foreign media, two years for insulting the supreme leader and one year for publicity in support of opposition groups.

Najafi was jailed in January when he voiced support for people detained that month during anti-government protests. The demonstrations, which focused on economic grievances, lasted for days and resulted in the deaths of dozens and the arrest of hundreds more.

— AP

Briton arrested in Egypt on spying charges says he is free

A British-Libyan tourist says Egyptian authorities have released him two weeks after he was arrested over a video he filmed on his cellphone that showed a military helicopter in the background.

Muhammed Fathi AbulKasem announces his release in an audio message posted on YouTube on December 8.

He says “I’m not ready to talk right now, but I feel I owe you, due to your support, to inform you I’m out.” He says he was held in “an Egyptian hellhole.”

AbulKasem was arrested shortly after arriving in Alexandria on November 21 from neighboring Libya “on suspicion of collecting information against the military.”

His cousin, Shareen Nawaz, says in a Facebook post that AbulKasem was “cleared of all of the ridiculous charges,” without elaborating.

— AP

Dozens of cars vandalized in West Bank town in apparent hate crime

Police suspect a Jewish hate crime against Palestinians after dozens of vehicles were vandalized overnight in the northern West Bank town of Beitin.

Security footage from a residence, published by the Yesh Din group, shows three masked figures arriving and puncturing tires.

Stars of David are graffitied on vehicles, as well as messages saying “I can’t sleep when blood is spilled here” and “We don’t sleep when God’s name is being desecrated.”

Those messages suggest it is a revenge operation for a terror attack near the nearby Ofra settlement in which seven Israelis were wounded, including a pregnant mother whose child was delivered by doctors. The infant is fighting for his life.

Police have opened an investigation but have so far made no arrests.

— Jacob Magid

British parliament to vote on Brexit deal ‘before January 21’

British Prime Minister Theresa May will let MPs vote on her Brexit deal before January 21, her spokesman says, after the initial vote was pulled due to lack of support.

“The government will ensure that the matter is brought back to the Commons before January 21,” May’s spokesman says.


London police detain man outside British parliament

Armed police detain a man on the grounds of the British parliament, at almost exactly the same spot where an attack occurred last year, according to an AFP photographer.

London’s Metropolitan Police does not immediately respond to a request for information about the incident, while parliamentary authorities say police are handling it.

The BBC cites police saying the incident is not terror-related.

A man is detained by British armed police inside the Parliamentary Estate after a security incident at the Houses of Parliament in central London on December 11, 2018. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP)

In March last year, Khalid Masood, a British Muslim convert, rammed a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before fatally stabbing a policeman on guard outside parliament.

The attack, which left five people dead and around 50 injured, ended when police shot the 52-year-old Masood dead.


Woman stabbed to death in her home in Acre

A woman in her 30s is found stabbed to death in her home in the northern city of Acre, in a suspected murder.

Medical staff who came to her home on Herzog Street initially classified her as critically wounded, but pronounced her death after resuscitation efforts failed.

Police open an investigation into the circumstances of the incident.

Protesters disrupt Knesset ceremony for singer who faced underage sex allegations

A small group of women disrupt a Knesset ceremony honoring, among others, singer Eyal Golan, who has been investigated in the past on suspicion of sex with minors.

Likud MK Nava Boker, who chairs the Lobby for the Promotion of Israeli Music and arranged the event, respond to the hecklers by saying the investigation against Golan was dropped.

“To all the women who are shouting — this isn’t right,” she says. “He was acquitted and doesn’t deserve this.”

Knesset guards remove some of the protesters from the room and the ceremony continues.

A women’s rights activist is taking out by Knesset security guards after screaming at Israeli singer Eyal Golan during a ceremony honoring Israeli singers at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on December 11, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Five female MKs had asked Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to rescind Golan’s award, but he declined saying the nomination process for the awards was done by a parliamentary lobby, not the Knesset, and therefore not under his control.

Golan was interrogated by the police in 2014 on suspicion that he engaged in sexual encounters with underage girls.

The Tel Aviv District Attorney’s Office later announced it would drop the charges due to lack of evidence.

Golan denied the allegations.

— Stuart Winer

Man gets 4 months in jail over lynching of Eritrean mistaken for terrorist

The Beersheba District Court hands a four-month prison sentence to Evyatar Dimri, an Israeli man convicted last month for his role in the 2015 lynching of an Eritrean migrant who was mistaken for a Palestinian terrorist.

The relatively lenient punishment comes after the charge was downgraded as part of a plea bargain.

Haftom Zarhum, 29, an innocent bystander, was shot by a security guard in the minutes after a terror attack at the Beersheba bus station on October 18, 2015 that left an Israeli soldier dead and 11 people wounded.

As he lay bleeding on the ground, a crowd of angry passersby — believing him to be the terrorist — beat him, some of them delivering powerful blows to his head and pummeling him with a metal bench. He died hours later in a hospital, and an autopsy ruled that the primary cause of death was the gunshot wounds.

Dimri was caught on security cameras kicking Zarhum twice. He was originally charged with “causing injury with grave intent,” an offense potentially carrying a punishment of up to 20 years in jail. But in the plea bargain, Dimri confessed to “abusing the helpless,” a lesser crime carrying a maximum prison sentence of seven years, Hebrew-language media reported.

The prosecution reportedly only requested that Dimri serve several months behind bars.

Israel says it uncovered a third cross-border Hezbollah attack tunnel

The Israel Defense Forces says it has found an additional Hezbollah attack tunnel that penetrated Israeli territory from southern Lebanon.

It is the third tunnel that Israel has found inside Israeli territory. The army has also said it is aware of the existence of others, but has yet to fully expose them.

The army says the tunnel has been filled with explosives in order to ensure that it cannot be used by the Lebanese terror group.

The military refuses to identify the location of this third tunnel.

— Judah Ari Gross

Khashoggi, other journalists named Time magazine’s ‘Person of the Year’

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in October at his country’s Istanbul consulate, is named Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” alongside several other journalists.

The magazine also honors Philippine journalist Maria Ressa, Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo — currently imprisoned in Myanmar — and the US staff of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, including five members killed in a June shooting.


Husband of woman stabbed to death in Acre arrested on murder suspicion

Police arrest the husband of the woman who was found stabbed to death in her home in the town of Acre earlier today, reportedly as a suspect in her murder.

If that suspicion is confirmed, it would raise to 25 the number of women killed by male family members or acquaintances in Israel this year.

Thousands of women last week protested the growing rates of domestic violence with a strike and widespread protests around the country,

Woman stabbed to death in Acre named

The woman stabbed to death in her home in Acre is named as 29-year-old Iman Ahmed Awad.

Forces reportedly found her with her throat slit.

Awad’s husband has been detained and taken for questioning, but Ynet reports that he is not regarded as a suspect for now.

Trump denies that few want White House chief of staff job

US President Donald Trump is disputing news reports that he’s having a hard time finding a new White House chief of staff.

In a tweet disparaging the reports as “fake,” Trump says many people, “over ten, are vying for and wanting the White House Chief of Staff position.”

He asks: “Why wouldn’t someone want one of the truly great and meaningful jobs in Washington?”

Trump is scrambling to find a new chief of staff after his first choice — Nick Ayers, the vice president’s chief of staff — backed out at the last minute and several other potential candidates signaled they weren’t interested in the job.

Trump announced Saturday that John Kelly, the current chief of staff, would leave the White House at the end of the year.

— AP

Women’s rights group demands immediate action after woman killed in Acre

The Israel Women’s Network rights group demands immediate action over what is apparently the 25th murder this year of women by family members or acquaintances, after Iman Ahmed Awad was stabbed to death in her home in Acre.

Criticizing the government for failing to implement steps or allocate funds to fight the phenomenon, the group says “our blood isn’t cheap and the safety of 51 percent of the population can’t continue to be a low priority.

“We demand action — now!”

PM warns Hezbollah of ‘unimaginable blows’ if it resists tunnel-busting op

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warns Hezbollah not to respond to the Israeli operation to expose and destroy cross-border tunnels, after the third passage was exposed today by the IDF.

At a visit to an army base in northern Israel, Netanyahu says the military is “prepared to deliver a very strong response if Hezbollah makes the big mistake and decides to hurt us or resist our operation. It will suffer unimaginable blows.”

Singer Yigal Bashan buried in Jerusalem; thousands attend funeral

Israeli singer, songwriter and actor Yigal Bashan, who died Sunday at the age of 68 after struggling with depression for years, is buried in Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul cemetery, Thousands attend his funeral, including many artists who worked with him over his 50-year career.

“The pain is unbearable, the heart is broken and the head refuses to believe, as if in a nightmare from which I can’t wake up,” his niece Merav said. “Rest in peace and look at us from above singing your songs and forever missing you.”

Bashan’s daughter Elinor mourned her dad, saying: “I love you, my father. I have been missing you for a long time, and I will now miss you forever.”

Israeli NY consul vows to fight anti-Semitism after ‘vicious’ Ohio attack plot

Israel’s consul in New York, Dani Dayan, thanks the FBI and other US authorities for thwarting a “vicious” planned attack on a synagogue in Toledo, Ohio.

Dayan says efforts to combat anti-Semitism should be stepped up, adding: “We will continue fighting anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and the cruel terror that tries to make us afraid of expressing our identity.”

Dayan calls Tina Stieben, head of the Toledo Jewish community, to say he is “alarmed” by the attack and say that “the State of Israel stands with you and will help Ohio’s Jewish community with all that is needed.”

US adds Pakistan to blacklist for religious freedom violations

The United States says it has added Pakistan to its blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom, ramping up pressure over its treatment of minorities.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he has designated Pakistan among “countries of particular concern” in a congressionally mandated annual report, a year after the State Department put Pakistan on a watchlist without legal consequences.


Women’s protest organizers call for daily 25-minute strike until demands met

The organizers of the women’s protest against domestic violence say they intend to continue “daily steps that can’t be ignored” until their demands from the government are met, following the death of a woman in Acre today.

“The government stayed silent and this afternoon another woman was murdered,” the organizers say. “Starting tomorrow, every day at 10 a.m., we [women] all stop everything for 25 minutes! Every day, we stop on the roads, stop work, stop in the street. Until the government heeds our demands.”

Iman Ahmed Awad was found stabbed in her home, and police haven’t yet determined the circumstances.

Woman critically injured in Ofra attack regains consciousness, meets husband

Shira Ish-Ran, the woman who was critically injured in Sunday night’s terror attack in the West Bank settlement of Ofra, regains consciousness and reunites with her husband Amichai for the first time.

The couple’s newborn baby, who was delivered prematurely by doctors in the aftermath of the attack, is still fighting for his life.

Amichai enters Shira’s room at Shaare Zedek hospital with flowers. The two hold hands and smile but Shira is still unable to speak after undergoing several surgeries.

“We have no words to describe the joy, even though she is still in serious condition,” says Shira’s father, Haim Silverstein, adding that the family hasn’t yet updated her on the condition of the baby to avoid worrying her in her current condition.

Putin says he only heard of alleged Russian spy after she was arrested in US

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he never heard of a woman who is accused of spying for Moscow in the United States until her July arrest.

Putin says that when he asked Russian intelligence services for information about 30-year-old Maria Butina, he was told “no one knows anything about her.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin during an official visit to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, October 19, 2018. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

US prosecutors have alleged Butina gathered intelligence and worked to develop relationships with American politicians through the National Rifle Association.

They also alleged that a former Russian lawmaker who was subject to US sanctions for alleged ties to Putin directed Butina’s activities.

Butina is charged with conspiracy and acting as an unregistered foreign agent for the Russia government. US prosecutors indicated yesterday in a court filing that she has accepted a plea deal.

— AP

Number of reported sexual violence cases within IDF doubled in six years

The Knesset spokesperson says during a discussion at the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that there have been 993 reported cases of sexual misconduct within the Israel Defense Forces in 2018 — double the number from six years ago.

Sharon Nir, the IDF chief’s women’s affairs adviser, argues that the increase is evidence not of growing sexual violence rates, but primarily of an “increase in awareness and legitimacy to report every incident.”

Number of Birthright participants this winter far lower than in previous years

The number of participants in the Birthright Israel program is significantly down this winter compared to previous years, Haaretz reports, citing five officials involved in the pro-Israel initiative.

The numbers of participants who signed up for trips between December and March is down by 20-50 percent, according to the report, an unprecedented decrease.

Reasons for the decline cited in the report include the raised maximum age for participants — from 26 to 32 — lowering the urgency in signing up; the small period of time in which participants could sign up; and a growing sense of dissociation among young US Jews over Israel’s policies toward Palestinians.

Iraqi jets target Islamic State meeting dens in Syria

The Iraqi military says its jets have bombed two Islamic State positions inside Syria that were being used as meeting places for the jihadist group.

Iraq’s Joint Operations Command says in a statement that at least 30 IS members were present in one of the locations targeted and another 14 members in the other. The statement says the information was gathered from intelligence sources.

Both positions were in the area of Sousa, near the border with Iraq.

Iraqi forces have been firing on IS positions across the border in eastern Syria to support the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in their push against the last IS pocket along the border.

— AP

High schools to strike for 25 minutes tomorrow in protest of domestic violence

The Israel Teachers’ Union announces that high school studies across the country will be halted for 25 minutes tomorrow at 10 a.m., in protest of violence against women.

The decision comes after a woman was killed in Acre earlier today and organizers of the women’s protest called for daily 25-minute strikes until the government meets their demands.

Jury recommends life in prison for perpetrator of Charlottesville car-ramming

A US jury has recommended life in prison plus 419 years for a man convicted of murder for driving his car into counter-protesters at a white nationalist rally last year.

The jury makes its recommendation a day after listening to emotional statements from the mother of a woman who was killed and from numerous people who were injured. James Alex Fields Jr. plowed into the counter-protesters during a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12, 2017.

James Alex Fields Jr., accused of plowing a car into a crowd of people protesting a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail via AP, File)

The jury reached its sentencing verdict shortly before noon, after about four hours of deliberations over two days. Jurors also recommend 70 years for each of five malicious wounding charges, 20 for each of three malicious wounding charges, and nine years on one charge of leaving the scene of an accident.

On Friday, the same jury convicted Fields of first-degree murder and other felonies, rejecting his lawyers’ arguments that he had acted in self-defense.

— AP

Israeli forces raid PA premises in Ramallah for second day in a row

For a second day in a row, Israeli security forces raid Palestinian Authority premises in northern Ramallah.

The raids come after a terrorist attack outside the Ofra settlement in the central West Bank on Sunday that left seven wounded, including a pregnant woman whose child was delivered by doctors and is fighting for his life.

The car fled immediately after the bullets were fired. For the past 48 hours or so, security forces have been searching for the gunman and for possible accomplices.

The security forces were seen near the headquarters of the official Palestinian Authority news site Wafa and the PA Finance Ministry, Wafa reports.

They also entered shops in the area and seized footage from their security cameras, the PA news site’s report says.

An IDF spokeswoman declines to comment on the raid, including whether it is connected to Sunday’s terror attack.

When the security forces raided northern Ramallah yesterday, they also seized security footage from buildings.

During today’s raid, clashes broke out between the security forces and Palestinian youth, the Wafa report also says.

— Adam Rasgon

Gunman kills 5 in Brazil cathedral, commits suicide

A gunman opens fire in a cathedral in the southeastern Brazilian city of Campinas, near Sao Paulo, killing at least five worshippers before committing suicide, according to police.

Paramedics tell media the man fired a revolver and a .38-caliber pistol inside the cathedral, also wounding several people before killing himself.

The motive of the shooting and the identity of the gunman are not immediately known.

“An individual entered a church and opened fire on several people,” a police spokesperson says.

“Currently the information we have is six deaths and three wounded,” the spokesperson says, declining for the moment to say whether the gunman was included in the toll.

However television images show the lifeless body of the gunman, wearing jeans and a blue t-shirt, lying inside the cathedral, holding a discharged pistol in his right hand.

Television also show paramedics attending several people outside the cathedral and multiple police cars in the street.

Trump threatens to shut down government over Mexico border wall

US President Donald Trump is escalating his shutdown threat over US-Mexico border wall funding at a heated White House meeting with Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

Trump says during the open-press session, “If we don’t have border security, we’ll shut down the government.” He says his long-promised wall will be built one way or another.

Government funding for some agencies is set to expire on December 21, threatening a partial shutdown.

US President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence meet with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in the Oval Office of the White House, December 11, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Schumer and Pelosi are urging the president to find another solution, with Schumer saying, “We shouldn’t shut down the government over a dispute.”

Trump is responding by saying he’s “proud to shut down the government” and says he will “take the mantle.”

Pelosi is also commenting on the meeting’s acrimony, noting “this has spiraled downwards.”

— AP

Spanish Jews pray at former synagogue they want back from Catholic Church

Spanish Jews hold a prayer and cultural event at a former synagogue that their community is trying to recover from the Catholic Church.

The prayer service and concert at Toledo’s Santa Maria la Blanca Museum was organized by the Hispanic-Jewish Foundation together with the Bishop of Toledo.

The museum, which is one of Spain’s major tourist attractions, used to be a church bearing the same name and is owned by the Catholic Church. The church was opened there instead of the Ibn Shushan synagogue after it was closed down in the 14th century amid persecution of Jews.

In 1492, Spain adopted the Inquisition campaign of religious repression as its policy. This resulted in the near extinction of Jewish life in Spain, which was once an international hub for Jewish scholarly and mercantile activities.

The Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain has repeatedly urged the government and church officials to offer a restitution plan for the building, which was erected in the 13th century. Once the main synagogue of Toledo, the building is one of the oldest still-standing structures of its kind.

The event included a concert by Israeli singer Achinoam Nini. David Hatchwell, a founder of the foundation, said the event celebrates “a new moment of brotherhood in Judeo-Christian relations.”


Erdan tells visiting Italian deputy PM Muslims behind anti-Semitism in Europe

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan meets Italian deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini and tells him that a significant portion of the anti-Semitism in Europe is being caused by Muslim immigrants.

“It should be acknowledged that a big part of the anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment in Europe is coming from the new Muslim communities around the continent, and this phenomenon should be fought against,” Erdan says.

Italy’s deputy PM says EU ‘entirely unbalanced’ in its treatment of Israel

Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini says the European Union has treated Israel unfairly.

“The EU has in recent years been entirely unbalanced, it has condemned and sanctioned Israel left and right, for every step it took,” he says at a press conference in Jerusalem.

Salvini, the head of the far-right Lega party, does not explicitly endorse a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, telling reporters that he supports any solution that “grew on the ground.”

Despite previous comments in praise of the US moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Salvini stops short of promising a move for Italy.

“Currently I am very happy to be interior minister in our unity government, I am not foreign minister. I will deal with this issue if and when I will be foreign minister,” he says.

— Raphael Ahren

Kirk Douglas honored in NY birthplace on his 102nd birthday

Public US officials and relatives of Kirk Douglas have unveiled a new historical marker in his upstate New York birthplace to honor the Hollywood legend on his birthday.

The blue and yellow New York state historical marker was presented in Amsterdam on Sunday, the actor’s 102nd birthday. The sign will be erected near the home where he was born as Issur Danielovitch to Russian Jewish parents on December 9, 1916.

The marker says Douglas “Rose From Poverty To Appear In Over 90 Films In Hollywood.”

In this November 6, 2018 file photo, actor Kirk Douglas attends a ceremony honoring his son actor Michael Douglas with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

Douglas was raised in Amsterdam, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of Albany.

He graduated from St. Lawrence University in northern New York and served in the US Navy during World War II.

His lengthy film career included starring roles in “Lust for Life,” “Spartacus,” and “Seven Days In May.”

— AP

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