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

Bill to prevent ‘coup’ against Netanyahu passes preliminary Knesset reading

A bill that would limit the powers of the president in deciding who to task with forming a government passes its first Knesset vote 60-55.

The legislation will amend Israel’s quasi-constitutional Basic Law, to ensure that only the leader of each elected political party has the right to form a government and not any other figure on the parties’ lists.

The bill was proposed by coalition chair David Amsalem (Likud) due to claims that President Reuven Rivlin was looking at the possibility of asking Gideon Sa’ar, a potential challenger to Netanyahu in the next elections, to form a government.

The legislation is seen as an attempt to prevent a potential “coup” within the ruling Likud party against leader Netanyahu.

Strasbourg gunman cried ‘Allahu Akbar’ during attack

The gunman who carried out a mass shooting in Strasbourg cried “Allahu Akbar” (“God is Greatest”) as he opened fire, France’s anti-terror prosecutor Remy Heitz says, adding the attack was being investigated as a terrorist incident.

The gunman is still on the run, but four people connected to him were detained overnight in the eastern French city, Heitz tells a news conference.

The shooting is being investigated by the anti-terrorist section of the Paris prosecutor’s office because of “the place targeted, the way the attack was carried out, the gunman’s profile” and reports of his shouting Allahu Akhbar, the prosecutor adds.


Germany ups border controls after French attack

The German government says it has stepped up controls on the country’s border with France following Tuesday night’s attack in Strasbourg, but sees no change to the threat level in Germany.

Interior Ministry spokeswoman Eleonore Petermann says there’s no reason to stay away from Christmas markets in Germany. A Christmas market in Berlin was targeted in a deadly attack two years ago.

Petermann and Germany’s justice ministry say that German authorities had no information on links between the suspected attacker, who had previously spent prison time in Germany for robbery, and Islamic extremists.

The suspect, who killed at least two and injured about a dozen others Tuesday, was convicted in Germany in 2016 and reportedly deported to France in 2017. Petermann said, however, that his freedom of movement within the European Union had been removed.

— AP

Macron convenes emergency security meeting after Strasbourg attack

French President Emmanuel Macron is holding an emergency security meeting at the presidential palace in Paris following yesterday’s attack in the eastern city of Strasbourg that killed three and injured about a dozen others.

The defense council is taking place in the presence of top military officials and government members, including the prime minister, interior, defense and foreign affairs ministers.

They will discuss the progress of the investigation and other security measures as the government raised the alert level nationwide and sent police reinforcements to Strasbourg in a manhunt for the suspect.

Interior minister Christophe Castaner arrived back in Paris today after traveling to Strasbourg overnight to supervise police operations.

— AP

Israeli to be extradited to US for distributing child porn, extortion

An Israeli man accused of producing and distributing child pornography will be extradited back to the US for trial.

The Jerusalem district court approves the request from the state of California to return Elad Gabber to face charges relating to child pornography and extortion.

Gabber was arrested last December in a joint raid by Israeli police and Interpol with the authorization of the Justice Ministry.

He is accused of visiting video sites featuring girls aged 12-17 and recording them performing sex acts, between June 2010 and July 2011.

Afterwards, he would find the girls on social media and threaten to publish the images if they did not perform private sex videos for him. If the girls refused, he carried out his threat and publish the images of them online.

Trump cites France attack in push for US-Mexico wall

US President Donald Trump is citing a shooting attack in France as he calls on Democratic congressional leaders to support funding for a wall at the US-Mexico border.

In a tweet, Trump says: “Another very bad terror attack in France. We are going to strengthen our borders even more. Chuck and Nancy must give us the votes to get additional Border Security!” That’s a reference to Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who met with Trump yesterday.

A suspected extremist sprayed gunfire at a Christmas market in the city of Strasbourg yesterday, killing three and wounding at least 13.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tells “Fox & Friends” it appears no Americans were killed or injured in the attack. He also stressed the need for border security.

— AP

IDF delegation held ‘good’ talks with Russian counterparts on Hezbollah tunnels

The IDF says a senior delegation dispatched to Moscow yesterday is heading home this afternoon following “good and professional” talks with their Russian counterparts about their ongoing operation to destroy Hezbollah tunnels burrowed under Israel’s border with Lebanon.

A statement from the army says the military brass discussed ways to improve military coordination in Syria to avoid “friction” between the two armies. The IDF officials underscored Israel’s position that it will continue operating against Iran and its proxies north of its borders.

Israel frequently carries out airstrikes against Iran and its allies in Syria in an effort to prevent sophisticated weaponry from reaching its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah.

Russia and Israel have maintained a hotline to coordinate operations and prevent any collisions between warplanes over neighboring Syria.

Deputy FM visits Ofra terror victim

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely visits Shira Ish-Ran at Shaare Zedek hospital this morning, where she is recovering from Sunday’s terror attack in Ofra, while her newborn baby fights for his life.

“We must end payments to the Palestinian Authority, which continues to reward murderers by paying them and their families for committing terror attacks,” Hotovely says.

— Raphael Ahren

Afula baby with measles hospitalized in critical condition

A one-year-old baby with meningitis and pneumonia is admitted to an Afula hospital in critical condition, complications from a measles infection.

The girl is undergoing treatment at the pediatric intensive care unit at the Emek Medical Center.

Last month an 18-month-old toddler in Jerusalem died of the disease, the first recorded death from measles in Israel in over a year.

Iran dissident lawyer gets 6 years in prison

Dissident Iranian lawyer Ghasem Sholesaadi has been sentenced to six years in prison, his lawyer says.

Sholesaadi was arrested on August 18 while taking part in a small protest outside Iran’s parliament against the barring of candidates from elections.

The conservative-dominated Guardian Council reserves the right to veto any candidates from presidential and parliamentary elections.

Mr Sholesaadi has been sentenced to five years of prison for “assembling and conspiring against national security” by the 15th branch of Tehran’s revolutionary court,” his lawyer, Mohammad Hossein Aghasi, tells AFP.

“He also received one further year for ‘propagation against the system’,” Aghasi adds.

— AP

Communications minister collapses at Knesset — reports

Communications Minister Ayoub Kara collapses as he enters the Knesset plenum, according to reports. He is receiving medical treatment from the Knesset staff.

Tibi administered first aid to Kara after collapse at Knesset

Arab (Joint) List MK Ahmad Tibi gave Communications Minister Ayoub Kara first aid after he collapsed at the entrance to the Knesset plenum. Tibi is a gynecologist by training.

Kara was rushed to Hadassah Hospital in Ein Kerem. According to reports, the minister has regained consciousness.

Netanyahu accepts resignation of spokesman accused of sexual misconduct

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepts the resignation of his international media spokesman, David Keyes.

Keyes took an open-ended leave of absence in September, due to multiple accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior.

In a statement, Netanyahu thanks Keyes for his “great contributions” to Israel’s public diplomacy efforts, and says his explanatory videos about the country were “groundbreaking.”

Croatia’s purchase of Israeli jets stalled over US approval

Croatia says a deal to buy 12 used F-16 jets from Israel worth $500 million could be in jeopardy if the US does not approve of the sale.

The tentative deal to buy the upgraded F-16 Barak fighter jets from Israel was made earlier this year pending a US approval allowing Israel to sell the American-made jets to a third party.

Israel has upgraded the jets with sophisticated electronic systems — crucial in Croatia’s decision to buy the planes from Israel rather than from the US.

The US is now hinting that the upgrades should be removed.

Croatia Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic says “we will either buy the planes that were originally offered (by Israel) or the tender will be declared null and void, there is no dilemma about it.”

— AP

Knesset closes for the day after Kara collapse

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein says in a statement that “on behalf of all MKs I want to wish Ayoub Kara a speedy recovery to full health.”

Edelstein says the Knesset plenary will remain closed for the rest of the day and will resume tomorrow morning.

— Raoul Wootliff

8 EU nations support Iran nuke deal, but urge Tehran to halt missiles

Eight European Union nations are underlining their commitment to the Iran nuclear deal while urging Tehran to stop its “destabilizing regional activities,” especially the launch of ballistic missiles.

Their statement says “it has been confirmed that Iran continues to implement its nuclear related commitments.”

But the Europeans warn that ballistic missile-related activities — including “the launch of nuclear-capable missiles and any transfers of missiles, missile technologies and components” — would violate Security Council resolutions.

Ambassadors of Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and the United Kingdom issue the statement outside the UN Security Council ahead of a meeting on Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement and the council resolution endorsing it.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will address the meeting.

— AP

Baby delivered after mother shot in Ofra terror attack dies

The baby delivered in an emergency cesarean section after his mother was shot in a West Bank terror attack earlier this week has died, according to the Shaare Zedek hospital.

Shira Ish-Ran was critically injured Sunday evening when terrorists in a passing car opened fire at a group of Israelis at a bus stop outside the settlement of Ofra. Seven people were injured in all, including Ish-Ran’s husband, Amichai, who was moderately hurt.

The Ish-Ran’s baby was delivered by emergency C-section late Sunday night at 30 weeks.

After the boy was delivered doctors said he was in “stable” condition, but he deteriorated in the days that followed.

Amichai (left) and Shira Ish-Ran, wounded in a December 9, 2018, terrorist attack outside Ofra in the West Bank, are seen at their wedding (Courtesy of the family)

On Tuesday, doctors said the infant was hooked up to a ventilator and was undergoing treatment in the neonatal intensive care unit. Doctors said they feared the baby suffered a brain injury during the attack.

The IDF’s search for the perpetrators of the attack entered its fourth day, with troops setting up roadblocks and sweeping nearby Palestinian villages.

At UN, Pompeo urges tougher action on Iran missiles

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is urging the United Nations to tighten restrictions on Iran’s missiles, saying the Islamic republic has hundreds of projectiles that could strike US allies.

Pompeo is in New York for a Security Council meeting on Iran, which recently confirmed a medium-range ballistic test, arguing it is legal and necessary for its defense.

“We risk the security of our people if Iran continues stocking up on ballistic missiles,” Pompeo tells the Security Council.

“We risk escalation of conflict in the region if we fail to restore deterrence. And we convey to all other malign actors that they too can defy the Security Council with impunity if we do nothing,” he says.

Iran has “hundreds of missiles which pose a threat to our partners in the region,” Pompeo says, referring to Israel and Arab allies such as Saudi Arabia.


Lawmakers extend condolences over death of baby delivered after terror attack

Lawmakers are extending their condolences to the Ish-Ran family, following the death of their infant son who was delivered by emergency caesarean section following Sunday night’s terror attack outside the settlement of Ofra.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett expresses his condolences over the baby’s death and calls for a tough response to prevent further attacks.

“A Jewish baby that still hadn’t been named was murdered… his short life was a struggle for his life,” Bennett, who heads the pro-settlement Jewish Home party, posts on Twitter. “This is a despicable murder by terrorists who have stopped fearing us. We must restore the lost deterrence; otherwise a wave of murders is on the way.”

Echoing Bennett, Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel vowed the government would “exact a price from the scum” behind the attack.

“We didn’t come to the Land of Israel in order that lowly terrorists would murder babies in the womb of their mothers,” tweets Gamliel, a member of the ruling Likud party.

Former Trump lawyer sentenced to 3 years in prison

Michael Cohen, who as US President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer once vowed he would “take a bullet” for his boss, is sentenced to three years in prison for an array of crimes that included arranging the payment of hush money to two women that he says was done at the direction of Trump.

The sentence was in line with what federal prosecutors asked for. Sentencing guidelines called for around four to five years behind bars, and prosecutors asked in court papers that Cohen be given only a slight break.

US District Judge William H. Pauley III says Cohen deserved modest credit for his decision over the summer to admit guilt and cooperate in a federal investigation of efforts by Russians to influence the presidential election, but his assistance “does not wipe the slate clean.”

“Somewhere along the way Mr. Cohen appears to have lost his moral compass,” the judge said. “As a lawyer, Mr. Cohen should have known better.”

— AP

After baby dies, Netanyahu vows to catch terrorists behind Ofra shooting

Prime Minister Netanyahu vows Israel will track down the terrorists behind a shooting outside the West Bank settlement of Ofra, after a baby born prematurely to a mother wounded in the attack dies.

“Our heart is with Shira and Amichai after the passing of their 4-day-old baby that doesn’t even have a name,” Netanyahu says at an event for foreign reporters.

The prime minister says security forces are working to find the terrorists behind the attack, who he calls “despicable murderers — the most deviant criminals on earth.”

“I hope there will soon be news on the matter,” he says.

“We won’t let up until we find them and bring them to justice,” Netanyahu adds.

— Alexander Fulbright

UK’s May tells party she plans to quit before 2022 election

British Prime Minister Theresa May tells her MPs Wednesday she plans to quit before the 2022 election, as she seeks their support in a confidence vote, a lawmaker said.

“She said she does not intend to lead the 2022 election,” Conservative MP Alec Shelbrooke tells journalists after the closed-door meeting, confirming other reports.


Palestinian suspect in Ofra terror attack said arrested following shootout north of Ramallah

Israeli security forces arrest a Palestinian man suspected of opening fire on a group of Israelis at a bus stop earlier this week following a shootout north of Ramallah, according to reports in Palestinian media.

The reports say the man is a taxi driver, and he was arrested after an exchange of fire with IDF troops while he was driving his car in the town of Surda. His condition is not known.

Another person is also reportedly arrested.

Palestinian suspects arrested in connection to Ofra attack identified

The Palestinian men arrested by IDF troops in a village north of Ramallah are identified as Salih and Waad Barghouti near Sarda, a village north of Ramallah, the Gaza-based news site Shehab reports.

The two men were inside a taxi before the Israeli forces arrested them, Shehab says.

Salih Barghouti is from Kobar, a village near Ramallah, Kobar Mayor Ezzat Badwan tells the Times of Israel. Barghouti is a taxi driver, Badwan says.

— Adam Rasgon

UN chief urges Iran to address missile worries

The UN political chief says Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is calling on Iran “to carefully consider and address” concerns raised by UN member states about its ballistic missile activities.

Rosemary DiCarlo tells the UN Security Council that Guterres welcomes the reaffirmation of support for the 2015 nuclear deal by the remaining participants following the US withdrawal in May — Russia, China, Britain, France, Germany and Iran.

She says “it is essential that the plan continues to work for all participants, including by delivering economic tangible benefits to the Iranian people.”

DiCarlo says the secretary-general regrets the Trump administration’s decision to re-impose sanctions against Iran that it lifted after the 2015 nuclear deal following its withdrawal from the agreement.

She says Guterres believes issues not directly related to the nuclear deal “should be addressed without prejudice to preserving the agreement and its accomplishments.”

— AP

Truck driver killed in explosion while driving on Route 5

Magen David Adom paramedics say a man was killed in an explosion as he drove his truck on Route 5 near the Qassem interchange in Rosh Haayin.

Reports in Hebrew-language media say police suspect the incident is a gang-related assassination.

Trump envoy sends condolences to couple who lost newborn after terror attack

Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, extends his condolences to the Israeli family who lost their newborn baby as a result of a terror attack in the West Bank on Sunday.

“Absolutely heart-breaking – my thoughts & prayers are with the family of the baby who died today as a result of the despicable terror attack on Sunday. This is an attack Hamas praised as ‘heroic,’” he posts on Twitter.

Greenblatt goes on to criticize the UN member states who worked to strike down a US proposal last week specifically condemning the Hamas terrorist group, saying they “should absorb this news and understand their actions.”

Suspect arrested for Ofra terror attack is Ramallah taxi driver

Employees of the Rafideen taxi company in Ramallah tell The Times of Israel that Salih Barghouti, the man arrested earlier for his suspected involvement in Sunday’s terrorist attack, is an employee there.

Workers who asked to remain anonymous say Barghouti has been at work the last three days. He says Barghouti was shot and injured by the IDF earlier this evening.

“Salih was shot and injured,” the employee says. “We don’t know if he died.”

— Adam Rasgon

IDF forces raiding family home of Ofra attack suspect — reports

Reports in Palestinian media say IDF forces are raiding the family home of Salih Barghouti in the Palestinian village of Kobar, outside of Ramallah.

Barghouti was arrested earlier in the nearby village of Surda for his suspected participation in a terrorist attack outside the settlement of Ofra earlier this week.

Kobar Mayor Ezzat Badwan confirms to The Times of Israel that IDF forces are operating in the village.

— Adam Rasgon

Police searching for missing kids from Beitar Illit

Police say they are searching for a three- and four-year old brother and sister who have not been seen since they left their home in the Jerusalem-area settlement of Beitar Illit around 5 p.m.

Emergency services and volunteers are launching extensive searches in the settlement for the young children.

French UN envoy urges ‘firm’ dialogue with Iran

France’s UN ambassador says a long-term strategy in the Middle East cannot rest on “exerting pressures and sanctions” on Iran but must include “a firm and frank dialogue” with the Iranians on issues of growing concern, including their ballistic missile launches and destabilizing activities.

Francois Delattre tells the UN Security Council that dialogue is the only way the international community can lay the foundations for a new agreement with Iran on nuclear and missile activity as well as regional stability.

He stressed that “there is no other way to make sure there was lasting stability in the region or to attain the goal of Iran never obtaining nuclear weapons.”

Delattre’s comments appear aimed at the Trump administration, which pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and has recently re-imposed sanctions it had lifted following the agreement.

The French ambassador also echoes the appeal launched by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to all countries to ensure the continuity of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal “as a pillar of international peace and security.”

— AP

Hundreds gather for funeral of infant born after mother shot in terror attack

Hundreds gather at the Mount of Olives Cemetery in East Jerusalem for the funeral of the three-day-old baby boy, who was delivered prematurely after his mother was shot in a terror attack outside the Ofra settlement earlier this week.

— Jacob Magid

Russian envoy knocks UN policy on Iran

Russia’s UN ambassador says “Iran is ready for a dialogue,” but the United States and other Security Council members appear to be more interested in further escalating what he calls “anti-Iran hysteria and to demonize Iran.”

Vassily Nebenzia tells the Security Council Wednesday that this “just exacerbates an already difficult situation in the Middle East.”

He says that “to lower the crisis, what we need to do is pool international and regional efforts.” He said one way to start is to hold a conference with countries in the region, and then broaden it to the entire Middle East.

Nebenzia says Iran is not banned from conducting ballistic missile launches and there is no proof that its missiles are capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

He lashes out at the Trump administration, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listening, for abandoning the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and for “trying to punish all other member states” for implementing the agreement and the Security Council resolution endorsing it.

Nebenzia says, “It’s time to abandon unilateral actions,” and added, “History shows that they are doomed to failure.”

— AP

Police say missing kids from Beitar Illit found

Police say the 3- and 4-year-old siblings from the Jerusalem-area settlement of Beitar Illit have been found following a several hour search.

Earlier, a massive search effort was launched after the two children had not been seen since 5 p.m.

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