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

Father of Duma suspect blasts ‘fuhrer’ Rivlin and ‘Arab’ Obama

According to Israeli media, a father of one of the suspects in the killing of three members of a Palestinian family earlier this year attacks presidents Reuven Rivlin and Barack Obama in a vicious Facebook post.

“I didn’t see a kippa on the head of the Fuhrer Reuven Rivlin as he was lighting candles at the Arab’s place in the black house, and I’m convinced that he didn’t utter the blessings for lighting [the candles],” wrote the man, whose son has been held by the Shin Bet in recent weeks over his suspected involvement in the fatal firebombing in the Palestinian village of Duma in the West Bank in July.

US President Barack Obama helps Israeli President Reuven Rivlin light the menorah during a Hanukkah reception at the White House in Washington, DC, December 9, 2015. (Photo by AFP Photo/Jim Watson)

US President Barack Obama helps Israeli President Reuven Rivlin light the menorah during a Hanukkah reception at the White House in Washington, DC, December 9, 2015. (Photo by AFP Photo/Jim Watson)

Rivlin lit Hanukkah candles with Obama at the White House last week. Pictures of the event showed that he was wearing a kippa.

“But even if he did wear a kippa and uttered the blessings,” the suspect’s father continued, it was the greatest act of malicious hypocrisy “in the history of the Jewish people, to my mind.”

Right-wing activists have been critical of security forces for their methods of interrogating the suspects in the attack — whose identities, along with other details of the case, have yet to be cleared for publication — who have been denied the right to an attorney at their interrogation sessions.

Sarkozy ‘proud’ of party’s French electoral win

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy expresses pride in his conservative party’s electoral comeback in regional elections.

Sarkozy pays “homage” to the voters who turned out for Sunday’s runoff elections after skipping the first round. The higher turnout may have played a role in keeping the far right National Front from winning any regional vote despite coming out on top in six of them in the first round.

“We are proud … of the results,” he tells supporters of his Republicans party. He says his party should take heed, however, of the high support for the anti-immigration National Front.

While his party will “refuse all compromise with the extremes,” he says, “We must now take the time to debate the fundamentals of great questions that are anguishing the French.” He notes security concerns, frustration with European unity, and unemployment — all issues that the National Front’s Marine Le Pen has used to rally support.

— AP

Despite election defeat, Le Pen vows: ‘Nothing can stop us now’

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right National Front, remains defiant despite her party failing to win a single region in today’s elections.

“Nothing can stop us now,” she says. “By tripling our number of councilors, we will be the main opposition force in most of the regions of France.”


Le Pen’s conservative rival thanks leftist voters

The French conservative who routed far-right leader Marine Le Pen in a critical regional election thanks leftist voters for supporting him and keeping the anti-immigrant National Front from power.

Xavier Bertrand, a labor minister under former President Sarkozy, says after the results were announced: “Here the French gave a lesson of rallying together, courage.”

“Here we stopped the progression of the National Front,” he says as Le Pen’s supporters boo his remarks from their party’s headquarters.

Polling agencies project that his Republicans party wins about 57 percent of the vote in the Nord-Pas de Calais-Picardie region, more than doubling his score from the Dec. 6 first round. Le Pen wins about 42 percent in the runoff.

— AP

French far-right fails to win a single region in elections

France’s far-right National Front (FN) fails to win a single region in elections despite record results in the first round, early estimates show, as voters flocked to traditional parties to keep it out of power.

The leader of the anti-immigration FN, Marine Le Pen, loses out to the center-right alliance in her northern region after the ruling Socialists pulled out of the race ahead of the second round.

World, Arab powers back Libya unity government as way to fight IS

A US and Italy-led coalition of world powers and regional players urge Libya’s warring factions to lay down their weapons and back a new national unity government under a UN peace plan due to be signed on Wednesday.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is among ministers and officials from 17 countries who, along with the UN, the EU and the Arab league, call for an immediate ceasefire across Libya.

They pledge support for efforts to end the chaos that has engulfed the North African state since the 2011 overthrow of Moamer Kadhafi, and to reduce the risk of Islamic State (IS) expanding its presence.

“We came here today because we cannot allow the status quo to continue,” Kerry says at the close of talks attended by 15 officials from different wings of Libya’s splintered political class.

“It is dangerous for the viability of Libya, dangerous for Libyans and, because of Daesh (IS) migrating there, dangerous for everyone.

“We refuse to stand by and watch a vacuum filled by terrorists.”


Rocket falls in open area in south

The IDF says a rocket has fallen in an open area in southern Israel, near the city of Sderot.

No injuries are reported.

The IDF is investigating the incident.

Rocket sirens heard in Sderot, IDF investigating

Rocket sirens are heard in the southern town of Sderot.

The IDF is investigating the incident.

IDF names unit of soldiers arrested for shooting camel

The IDF says the two soldiers who were arrested last Monday on suspicion of firing an army-issued handgun at a camel near the Dead Sea are from the army’s elite Duvdevan unit. The name of the unit had been under gag order.

The two filmed themselves in the act as they drove on a road in the desert, passed the camel and fired at it, with one of them bursting out laughing as they sped away.

Footage from a video of two IDF soldiers on leave shooting at a camel while driving past it in late November 2015. The soldiers were arrested by Military Police on December 7, 2015. (Screenshot)

Footage from a video of two IDF soldiers on leave shooting at a camel while driving past it in late November 2015. The soldiers were arrested by Military Police on December 7, 2015. (Screenshot)

The incident took place in late November, while the two were on leave.

They were arrested last Monday by the Military Police, their service in their unit was suspended, and both saw their remand extended Wednesday by the Jaffa Military Court — for one soldier until Thursday, for the other until Sunday.

IDF to up presence in West Bank

The IDF decides to continue reinforcing its positions in the West Bank.

Four battalions will be dispatched to the area in the next months, the army says.

Reform movement blasts Odeh move to snub Presidents’ Conference

The Reform movement expresses “deep disappointment” in the refusal of an Arab-Israeli lawmaker to enter a meeting with US Jewish leaders because it was taking place in space shared by the Jewish Agency.

“This was an opportunity for us to engage in the complexities of the issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the internal Jewish-Arab issues in Israel,” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism said in a statement issued Friday, a day after Ayman Odeh, who heads the Joint (Arab) List, the third largest faction in the Knesset, refused to enter the offices of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

A meeting with the conference “would have provided another opportunity to further the conversation and come closer to a solution,” Jacobs said.

“I was pleased and proud that the Conference of Presidents decided to invite MK Odeh to the meeting,” he said. “I am profoundly disappointed by MK Ayman Odeh’s decision to walk away from that important opportunity for him, for the cause of equality in Israel, and for the Conference of Presidents.”

Leader of the Joint Arab list, Ayman Odeh leads the weekly Joint Arab list meeting at the Knesset, Israel's parliament in Jerusalem, October 12, 2015. (Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Leader of the Joint (Arab) List, Ayman Odeh, leads the faction’s weekly meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, October 12, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Odeh refused to enter the premises, citing the Jewish Agency’s role in advancing immigration to Israel and its affiliation with the Jewish National Fund and the World Zionist Organization. He said that policies favoring Jewish immigration to Israel are seen among Israeli Arabs as a means of demographically marginalizing them, that the JNF, which administers much of the land in Israel, discriminates against non-Jews and that the WZO funds settlement in the West Bank.


Bombardment of rebel bastion near Damascus kills 31: monitor

At least 31 civilians are killed in heavy bombardment of a besieged Syrian rebel stronghold east of Damascus that also struck a school, a monitoring group says.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says rockets fired by regime forces rained down on Douma, one of the largest towns in the opposition-held Eastern Ghouta region.

Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman says air strikes also hit Douma and the nearby towns of Saqba and Harasta, but it was unclear whether they were carried out by Syrian or Russian warplanes.

At least 28 civilians were killed in the bombing of Douma and Saqba, and another three civilians were left dead after the air strikes in Harasta.


Hamas will give details on KIA soldiers only after prisoner release

Hamas sources say they will give more details about the fate of two killed Israeli soldiers, whose remains are believed to still be held by the terror group, only after Israel releases Palestinian prisoners.

Oron Shaul was killed in the Gaza Strip during last summer’s 50-day military campaign, Operation Protective Edge. His remains, along with those of a second soldier, Hadar Goldin, are believed to be held by Hamas, which seeks to use them as a bargaining chip.

In an apparent effort to leverage Israel into negotiating a prisoner exchange, Hamas recently delivered an emotional written appeal purporting to be from the slain Shaul to his bereaved parents, begging for his release.

IDF soldiers Oron Shaul (left) and Hadar Goldin (right) (Flash90)

IDF soldiers Oron Shaul (left) and Hadar Goldin (right) (Flash90)

Last month, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal reportedly demanded the release of dozens of Palestinian prisoners — including Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Saadat — in exchange for the bodies of Goldin and Shaul.

Sweden reaches preliminary deal to question Assange

Sweden reaches a preliminary legal agreement with Ecuador that would pave the way for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to be questioned over a rape allegation, the Swedish government says.

“This is essentially a deal on legal assistance on a criminal matter, and when it is finalized later this week it will open the door for the Swedish state prosecutor to question Mr. Assange,” Swedish Justice Ministry official Cecilia Riddselius tells AFP.

Riddselius stresses the agreement was not specifically linked to the Assange case. She describes it as a deal that will allow authorities in the respective countries to help each other.

Ecuador says the deal will streamline future cooperation.

“The agreement is, with no doubts, an instrument that strengthens bilateral relations and will facilitate, for example, the fulfillment of judicial matters such as the questioning of Mr. Assange, who is granted asylum in the embassy of Ecuador in London,” says a statement from Ecuador’s foreign ministry.

In this July 30, 2013 file photo released by Sunshine Press Productions, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange sits inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. (AP/Sunshine Press Productions, File)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange sits inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, July 30, 2013. (AP/Sunshine Press Productions, File)

Ecuador had demanded that such an agreement be in place before it would let Swedish prosecutors interview Assange, who has been holed up at Ecuador’s embassy in London since 2012.

The 44-year-old Australian fears that if he leaves the embassy he could eventually face extradition to the United States and a trial over the leaking of hundreds of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010.

Swedish prosecutors offered in March to question Assange in London, dropping their previous demand that he come to Sweden to answer to the 2010 allegations.

But Quito refused to allow such a meeting until a bilateral judicial agreement was in place.

Swedish prosecutors dropped a sexual assault probe against Assange in mid-August after the five-year statute of limitations expired.

They still want to question him about a rape allegation which carries a 10-year statute of limitations that only expires in 2020.

Assange denies the allegations and insists the sexual encounters were consensual.


Rivlin defends IDF, says Israel will legally defend soldiers

President Reuven Rivlin defends the IDF during his speech at the Haaretz conference in New York, amid criticisms from right-wing activists over the Israeli leader’s decision to take part in the gathering, despite the fact that it will also be attended by representatives of lefty NGO Breaking the Silence.

Rivlin says the IDF is doing everything in its power to maintain a high moral standard, and says the State of Israel will do everything in its power to legally defend its soldiers.

Breaking the Silence is a group whose members are veteran IDF combatants who report, mostly anonymously, about alleged abuses they witnessed or took part in during their military service in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip.

Obama: Peace is only way for Israel to stay Jewish, democratic

US President Barack Obama says that peace is the only way for Israel to remain a Jewish and democratic state. In a pre-recorded message broadcast at the Haaretz conference in New York, Obama condemns recent terrorist attacks against Israelis, and says that people who use violence against Palestinians should be brought to justice.

Obama adds that security cooperation between Israel and the United States today is unprecedented.

Trump says he can still meet Netanyahu anytime he wants

After calling for Muslims to be denied entry to the US and following the cancellation of a scheduled trip to Israel, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump says he can still meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu anytime he wants.

“They’re not distancing themselves [from me],” Trump said of the Israeli government. “I had a meeting with Netanyahu. I could be at the meeting right now,” he adds during an interview with CNN.

“[Netanyahu] did [condemn the call to deny Muslims entry to the US], and that was sort of interesting,” Trump continues. “He modestly condemned [the statements], and I thought it was sort of inappropriate that he condemned them, but that’s OK. He wanted to condemn them, that’s what he does.”

A Reuters/Ipsos survey released Friday shows that 35 percent of Republican voters support Trump, putting him far ahead of closest rival Ben Carson, who has the backing of just 12% of voters. Trailing the two were Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and former governor of Florida Jeb Bush, both with 10%.

Officer is questioned over shooting of teen stabber

A police officer is questioned at the Department for Investigation of Police over his shooting of a 16-year-old Palestinian teenager who carried out a stabbing attack with a pair of scissors in Jerusalem along with her 14-year-old cousin several weeks ago.

The investigation was opened following a decision by the attorney general after claims surfaced that officer shot the stabber while she no longer posed any danger.

The officer says he fired at the teenager because he believed that she was still capable of further attacking civilians.

Mandatory leave for Rittman extended

The mandatory leave for top cop Maj. Gen. Roni Rittman, who was accused of two instances of sexual harassment, will be extended by four days, police say.

Rittman, 51, who was accused kissing a subordinate against her will five years ago, has denied the allegations against him and said that a senior officer in the Israel Police’s intelligence was framing him.

Roni Rittman (R ) August 31, 2014. (Flash90)

Roni Rittman (R ) August 31, 2014. (Flash90)

Two female police officers testified against Rittman.

Rittman has held the position of the head of the Lahav 433 unit since August 2014, making him one of the highest-ranking officers in the Israel Police. The unit has been involved in some of Israel’s most sensitive cases, including a corruption scandal populated by politicians in the Yisrael Beytenu party. The former head of the anti-corruption unit, Menashe Arviv, stepped down in 2014 over corruption allegations.

US warns Americans to leave violence-torn Burundi

The United States orders non-emergency US government personnel and dependents to leave violence-torn Burundi and warned other Americans to get out “as soon as it is feasible to do so.”

The State Department warning followed an upsurge of political violence in the capital Bujumbura that left nearly 90 people dead, the worst outbreak since a failed May coup.

“The US Department of State warns US citizens against all travel to Burundi and recommends that US citizens currently in Burundi depart as soon as it is feasible to do so,” it says.


Initial results show 5 Saudi women elected for first time

At least five Saudi women win seats on local municipal councils a day after women voted and ran in elections for the first time in the country’s history, according to initial results released Sunday.

The five women hail from vastly different parts of the country, ranging from Saudi Arabia’s second largest and most cosmopolitan city to a small village near Islam’s holiest sites.

Though not many women are expected to win seats, even limited gains are seen as a step forward for women who had previously been completely shut out of elections.

A Saudi woman casts her ballot in a polling station in the coastal city of Jeddah, on December 12, 2015. (AFP)

A Saudi woman casts her ballot in a polling station in the coastal city of Jeddah, on December 12, 2015. (AFP)

The mayor of Mecca, Osama al-Bar, tells The Associated Press that candidate Salma al-Oteibi won in a village called Madrakah, about 93 miles (150 kilometers) north of the city which houses the cube-shaped Kaaba to which Muslims around the world pray.

Al-Bar also confirms through election officials in Saudi Arabia’s second largest city of Jiddah that another female candidate, Lama al-Suleiman, had won a seat there.

The official Saudi Press Agency, meanwhile, quoted the head of the election committee in the northern region of al-Jawf as saying that female candidate Hinuwf al-Hazmi won along with 13 men in that district. The news agency also reported that Mona el-Emery and Fadhila al-Attawy had won in the northwestern region of Tabuk.

Overall results from the capital Riyadh and other major regions were expected to be announced Sunday by the General Election Commission.

— AP

Turkish army bans staff from vacationing in Russia

The Turkish army bans personnel from taking holidays in Russia, with which Ankara is embroiled in a bitter dispute over the shooting down of a Russian warplane, state-run media says.

The prohibition, which applies to both personnel and military academy students, is described as a “precautionary measure after the Russian warplane, which violated (Turkey’s) borders, was downed in accordance with the rules of engagement,” Anatolia news agency says.

Army personnel are expected to behave in a way that is “worthy” of the Turkish military while on vacation, Anatolia adds.

Russia and Turkey have been plunged in their worst crisis since the Cold War over Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane on the border with Syria on November 24.


IDF names suspected stabber as Lama Bakari, 16

The IDF names a Palestinian teenager who allegedly attempted to stab an Israeli pedestrian near the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba as 16-year-old Lama Bakari, a resident of Hebron.

Bakari was shot by IDF soldiers following the foiled stabbing attack and was severely injured. She was transferred to a Jerusalem hospital for treatment.

Court: Jewish suspects in ‘serious case’ should be denied attorney

The Supreme Court rules that three suspects arrested in connection to a “serious case” should be prevented from meeting with their lawyers, due to the nature of the offenses they allegedly committed.

Two of the suspects are minors, and the third is in his 20s, the court ruling says, though no further details about the identities of the suspects is disclosed.

“The overall picture presented in the classified information, and the fact that two of the suspects are minors, does not tip the scales at this time toward allowing them a meeting with their representatives,” Justice Salim Jubran writes in his ruling.

Police and Shin Bet security service agents recently arrested multiple Jewish terror suspects who may have been involved in the fatal firebombing of the Dawabsha family home in the West Bank village of Duma. They said investigators were checking “concrete suspicions” that they were involved in the deadly attack, though there is a gag order on the details of the investigation.

Inside the room of the Dawabsha home in Duma. A doll wrapped in a Palestinian flag rests in a stroller to honor Ali. (Eric Cortellessa/Times of Israel)

Inside the room of the Dawabsha home in Duma. A doll wrapped in a Palestinian flag rests in a stroller to honor Ali. (Eric Cortellessa/Times of Israel)

Suspected Jewish extremists torched the Dawabsha home on July 31 while the family slept. Ali Dawabsha, the family’s 18-month old son, died in the attack; his parents, Saad and Riham, succumbed to their injuries in Israeli hospitals in the aftermath of the attack.

IDF foils stabbing attack in Kiryat Arba, assailant shot

A Palestinian woman is shot by IDF soldiers after she is reported to have attempted to stab an Israeli citizen on a route between the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba and the city of Hebron.

The suspected assailant is reported to be in moderate to serious condition.

No Israelis are reported injured in the incident.

The suspected stabber is treated at the scene by IDF medical teams, and is then transferred to a Jerusalem hospital.

Report: Russia fires warning shots at Turkish ship

Russia’s Defense Ministry says a Russian ship fired warning shots at a Turkish ship in the Aegean Sea to avoid a collision, according to Sky News.

The Turkish military attache in Moscow is summoned to the foreign ministry over the incident, the BBC reports

Suspected stabbing attempt in West Bank

A suspected stabbing attempt is reported in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, near Hebron.

According to the initial report, IDF soldiers manage to neutralize the suspected stabber.

No injuries are reported at this stage and the suspected stabber’s condition is not yet clear.

Route 90 closed following floods

Following massive flash floods caused by heavy rain in the south, the section of Route 90 between the Dead Sea hotels and Ein Gedi on is closed to traffic.

Rain showers are expected to continue throughout the day, especially in the south and in central Israel.

Warships to be fitted with Iron Dome to protect gas rigs

The IDF intends to install Iron Dome defense systems on several of its most advanced warships in order to protect Israel’s offshore gas rigs, Haaretz reports.

The navy will also soon conduct a training simulation in which a mock missile is fired at a warship, in order to test the defense system’s ability to deal with a threat of massive rocket fire at the gas fields.

Intelligence gathering via satellite imagery will also be increased around the gas rigs.

Gas rigs in the Tamar field, off the coast of Israel, in June 2014. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

Gas rigs in the Tamar field, off the coast of Israel, in June 2014. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

The Tamar gas field, discovered in 2009, is believed to hold roughly 10 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Leviathan, discovered one year later, is thought to be more than twice as big, at 22 trillion cubic feet. They are two of the biggest fields in the Mediterranean Sea and could meet Israel’s natural gas needs until the middle of the next century.

The navy fears a scenario in which a missile fired from shore would strike one of the strategically critical rigs and cause significant damage.

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