The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.
US envoy ‘appalled’ by UN Palestinian rights official’s antisemitic comments
The US Permanent Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council condemns antisemitic comments by a UN investigator that were first reported by The Times of Israel.
The UN Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur into the Palestinian territory, Francesca Albanese, said in 2014 that the “Jewish lobby” was in control of the US, among other antisemitic comments.
“We are appalled by recently uncovered antisemitic remarks on social media made by a UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur before taking on the role,” says US Ambassador Michèle Taylor.
“References to the ‘Jewish Lobby’ are an age-old trope; this is outrageous, inappropriate, corrosive, & degrades the value of the UN,” she says.
The Human Rights Council has not responded to a request for comment.
Israeli tourist detained after conflict with police at Abu Dhabi airport
An Israeli tourist was arrested and detained in the United Arab Emirates after becoming involved in a conflict with police at the Abu Dhabi airport, the Walla news site reports.
Nahman Gabay, 21, was on an eight-hour stopover at Abu Dhabi airport on his way to India. After exiting the terminal, he was approached by police who asked him to identify himself.
Gabay then began cursing the officers, the report said, explaining his behavior on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder he is suffering from. Police then carried out a search on him, which further exacerbated his behavior.
The incident occurred three days ago and a court today ordered his remand extended by a further week.
The Foreign Ministry tells Walla they are aware of the issue and dealing with it.
Amid opposition, Ben Gvir said willing to compromise on content of police law
MK Itamar Ben Gvir is willing to compromise on the content of a bill that would give the police minister far greater control over the force in order to save the legislation, amid fierce opposition to the changes, Hebrew media report.
Ben Gvir who is set to become the next public security minister under the new title of national security minister, demanded the legislative change as part of his far-right Otzma Yehudit’s party’s coalition agreement with Likud.
But at a Knesset committee hearing today there was widespread resistance to the law, including from the police chief and the Attorney General’s office.
The Knesset legal adviser has recommended that Ben Gvir soften the legislation and he is considering doing so to ensure it is not struck down, the Kan public broadcaster reports.
Channel 12 says Ben Gvir could agree to additions that certain decisions would be made in consultation with the police brass and guaranteeing the status of the commisioner.
Israel, Abraham Accord countries said working on joint cyber defense
Israel, the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco have held meetings to discuss establishing a joint cyber defense platform, the Kan public broadcaster reports.
Representatives of the four nations held a series of meetings to discuss the issue that comes amid increased threats from Iranian hackers.
“This is a historic meeting. a statement by the parties regarding cooperation in the cyber field against common enemies,” Gaby Portnoy, the head of the Israel National Cyber Directorate tells Kan, calling it a “cyber Iron Dome.”
Border Police chief: troops who mistakenly killed teen girl in Jenin acted correctly
The commander of the Border Police says that troops who likely mistakenly shot and killed a teenage Palestinian girl during a battle with Palestinian gunmen in the northern West Bank city of Jenin had acted correctly.
“I emphatically and unreservedly expressed my backing and support for the fighters,” says Amir Cohen speaking at a military ceremony. “In the investigation that was presented to me a few hours after the incident, our fighters acted morally, with values, with courage, with determination and saved lives. And for that, I salute them.”
The IDF has said there was a “high probability” that a sniper accidentally shot and killed Jana Majdi Assam Zakarna, 16, who was found dead on the roof of her home with a gunshot wound to the head after the Israeli troops withdrew from Jenin.
The IDF, citing an initial probe of the shooting, said a Border Police sniper fired at Palestinian gunmen who were shooting at soldiers from rooftops during the raid.
“Fighting in hostile territory as we saw recently in the Jenin area, is sometimes clouded by the fog of battle. During this, we are obliged to make decisions under fire and in a short period of time,” Cohen says.
“We don’t have VAR,” he says referring to the video replays used by referees to review calls in soccer games. “We can’t go to the screen and decide what was the right thing or not.”
Airstrikes said to hit Iranian targets in eastern Syria
Syrian opposition media is reporting that airstrikes are targeting Iranian positions in the country.
The reports say the targets are hit near the eastern city of Deir Ezzor.
Videos posted to social media appeared to show low-flying jets overhead.
تحليق للطيران الحربي مجهول الهوية على علو منخفض فوق ريف ديرالزور الشرقي حيث قام الطيران بشن عدد من الغارات الجويه في المياذين وبادية المياذين .
حسب مراسلنا فإن الطيران الحربي استهدف مواقع تابعة للمليشيات الإيرانية داخل المياذين وعلى أطرافها.#صدى_الشرقية pic.twitter.com/mRbQvmsn58
— Sada AlSharqieh (@Sada_AlSharqieh) December 14, 2022
There is no comment from Israel, but the strikes come after IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi confirmed that an airstrike in early November on a convoy allegedly carrying Iranian arms near the Syria-Iraq border was carried out by the Israeli Air Force.
At the time of the November incident, the Israeli army refused to comment, in line with its general policy to not confirm involvement in specific strikes in Syria.
It wasn’t clear why Kohavi, who will end his term as military chief of staff next month, chose to acknowledge the IDF’s responsibility for the strike.
Israel has allegedly carried out hundreds of strikes on targets inside government-controlled parts of Syria in recent years, but rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations. It has acknowledged, however, that it targets arms shipments and posts of Iran-allied groups, such as Lebanon’s terrorist Hezbollah.
In a first, Iran expelled from UN women’s rights commission
Iran is kicked out of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women by a majority vote with a number of countries voicing alarm over the death of Mahsa Amini and the Islamic Republic’s violent crackdown against rights protesters.
The US-led resolution to remove Iran from the leading UN women’s rights body passes by a vote of 29 in favor, eight against and 16 abstentions.
It is the first time a country is removed from the commission.
The US, Israel, Canada, Japan and a number of European nations vote in favor of Iran’s removal.
China and Russia vote against, and India abstains.
Russia, which is cooperating with Iran in its invasion of Ukraine, attempted to stall the vote with a procedural objection but was voted down.
“Each state has not only the right but the obligation to maintain public order,” Russia’s envoy says of the protest crackdown, accusing Western states of hypocrisy.
“Did we meet regarding the membership of the United States on the commission after the wave of violence and vandalism following the death of George Floyd?” he says.
China accuses the commission of “bullying, hypocrisy and double standards.”
Israel’s UN envoy Gilad Erdan speaks out against Iran’s Middle East terror activities and urges an end to nuclear negotiations.
“This regime’s destructive nature cannot be changed,” he says. “This is a regime that doesn’t care about its people, it only cares about its own survival.”
He expresses support for Iranian rights protesters, saying the protesters’ motto, “Women, life, freedom,” in Farsi.
“We Israelis salute their bravery and view ourselves as true allies of the Iranian people,” he says.
Iranian hardliner suggests closing key Strait of Hormuz over protests
A hardline newspaper close to Iran’s ruling clerics suggests authorities close the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial waterway for global energy supplies, in response to alleged foreign support for the nationwide protests gripping the country.
The suggestion comes from the editor-in-chief of the Kayhan newspaper, who is appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in an editorial that could be seen as a trial balloon.
“Closing the Strait of Hormuz to Western countries’ oil tankers and commercial vessels is Iran’s legal right,” Hossein Shariatmadari writes. “We can even seize a part of their commercial cargo as compensation for the financial damage they have done to our country.”
It’s not the first time Shariatmadari has proposed closing the strait, through which around one-third of all oil traded by sea passes.
The narrow waterway at the mouth of the Persian Gulf has seen a number of tense encounters over the years. Any attempt to close it would risk a major confrontation with the United States, which has pledged to ensure the free flow of commerce, and could roil international oil markets.
The protests erupted in September following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who had been detained by Iran’s morality police for allegedly violating strict dress codes for women. The demonstrations rapidly spread across the country and mark one of the biggest challenges to Iran’s theocracy since the 1979 revolution that brought it to power.
Iran has blamed the protests, and attacks on security forces, on foreign countries, without providing evidence.
Hamas says it will end Israel prisoner exchange talks unless progress soon
Hamas will end talks on securing a prisoner exchange with Israel unless there is progress soon, the terror group’s leader in the Gaza Strip says.
“In the face of the occupation’s (Israel’s) stalling on this issue, we announce that we give them a limited time to finalize this deal,” Yahya Sinwar, Hamas chief in Gaza, says during a rare public appearance.
“Otherwise, we will close the case of the four enemy prisoners from the side of the resistance forever,” he adds, at a rally marking the 35th anniversary of the group’s establishment.
The terror group currently holds two living Israelis — Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed — as well as the bodies of two Israeli soldiers: Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin.
There is no official contact between the two sides. Egypt and the United Nations have served as mediators in the past.
Sinwar says indirect negotiations over a prisoner exchange were “interrupted because of the elections” in Israel.
Top Ukraine official says recent vote at UN against Israel was a ‘mistake’
Speaking at the Ukraine-Israel Innovation Summit in Warsaw, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky’s personal aide says Kyiv’s UN vote in November to refer the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the International Court of Justice in The Hague was a “mistake” that must be fixed.
The adviser, Alexey Arestovych, blames inertia within Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry for support of the resolution, titled “Israeli practices and settlement activities affecting the rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories.”
He had previously called Kyiv’s position “illogical and unacceptable.”
Arestovych’s comments do not mean Kyiv has decided to vote against the measure when it comes up for a vote in the General Assembly later this month. A date has not yet been set, and this week Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel told The Times of Israel that it was too early to talk about Kyiv’s position.
Israel has been hard at work trying to move Ukraine on the issue. Prime Minister Yair Lapid sent a letter to Zelensky asking him to oppose to measure.
“I’ve spoken several with several deputy ministers in Ukraine, including one face-to-face last week, regarding their vote in December,” says Israel’s envoy to Ukraine, Michael Brodsky.
“We’ve absolutely conveyed the message more than once,” he says.
US leads push to remove Iran from UN women’s rights commission
The US leads a push to remove Iran from the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, calling the Islamic republic’s membership “an ugly stain.”
The US envoy to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, presents the resolution to the UN’s Economic and Social Council at the world body’s headquarters in New York. She blasts Iran for the death of Mahsa Amini and the violent crackdown on protesters after her death.
“We know she was killed for the crime of being a woman and we know that for too long, for too often this was not such an unusual thing in Iran,” Thomas-Greenfield says.
“When the people of Iran heard it they said enough was enough. Iranian women and men across the ethnicities and social classes stood up to protest,” she says.
“They have demanded their basic human rights. They have come together through a simple rallying call: women, life, freedom.”
She says women’s rights activists inspired the US move to have Iran removed from the commission.
“The reason why is straightforward — the commission is the premier UN body for promoting gender equality and empowering women. It cannot do its important work if it’s being undermined from within. Iran’s membership in this moment is an ugly stain on the commission’s credibility,” Thomas-Greenfield says.
The proposed resolution would remove Iran for the remainder of its 2022-2026 term on the commission. The vote on the resolution will take place later this morning.
Israel, the UK and a number of other countries have signed on as co-sponsors.
IDF publishes photos showing Hamas set up rocket launchers next to 3 schools
The IDF tweets photos showing that the Hamas terror group that rules Gaza set up rocket launchers near schools.
“This is how Hamas exploits children, teachers and school buildings for its terrorist agenda,” the tweet says.
“We can reveal that Hamas is deliberately using these 3 schools in Gaza as a shield for its terrorist activities. Schools are meant for children—not rockets.”
The IDF did not provide any further information or say when the pictures were taken.
EXPOSED: This is how Hamas exploits children, teachers and school buildings for its terrorist agenda.
We can reveal that Hamas is deliberately using these 3 schools in Gaza as a shield for its terrorist activities.
Schools are meant for children—not rockets. pic.twitter.com/WAUq68tjZd
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) December 14, 2022
IDF troops said to shoot dead Bedouin Israeli trying to smuggle drugs from Egypt
IDF troops shot and killed a Bedouin Israeli who was apparently trying to smuggle drugs across the border from Egypt, Hebrew media reports say.
The man is identified as a resident of a village near Dimona in the Negev desert.
The incident occurs near Har Harif on the border, an area that has seen frequent drug smuggling attempts.
The military has no immediate comment.
Worker dies after fall at World Cup stadium in Qatar
A security guard died after suffering a fall at a World Cup stadium in Qatar, tournament organizers say.
The Supreme Committee says that John Njau Kibue fell at Lusail Stadium on Saturday. He was taken to the hospital and put in intensive care but died on Tuesday, the organizers say in a statement.
The security staff at stadiums is largely made up of migrant workers, particularly from Kenya and other African nations. The Supreme Committee does not specify Kibue’s nationality.
His family was informed and the organizers “are investigating the circumstances leading to the fall as a matter of urgency,” the committee says.
There was no match at Lusail Stadium on Saturday. The venue will host the final on Sunday between Argentina and the winner of the France-Morocco semifinal.
Since being named as host of this year’s World Cup, Qatar has come under intense scrutiny over conditions for over 2 million migrants who work in the country in everything from construction jobs to service industries. Rights groups say workers face unsafe conditions at work, including extreme heat that has caused deaths, as well as exploitation by employers, despite reforms instituted by Qatar.
Israeli-American woman arrested in Crete said released to house arrest
An Israeli-American woman who was arrested while vacationing with her children on the Greek island of Crete is being released to house arrest, the Ynet news site reports.
The woman was arrested last month by local authorities responding to an Interpol warrant, which may lead to her extradition to the United States.
The report, citing the local prosecutor, did not say if she would be allowed to return to Israel, nor where she would stay in Crete.
The woman left the US eight years ago with her three children, claiming that her husband at the time had been abusing them. Her husband claimed that she had kidnapped the children, and a warrant was issued for her arrest.
However, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled against ordering her deported back to the US, and instead granted her citizenship.
Now 60 years old, the woman ostensibly thought that she no longer was in criminal danger, given the court ruling, the fact that her husband had since died and that her children were no longer minors.
She took her children on a cruise to celebrate her youngest daughter’s 18th birthday but found herself under arrest when the ship docked in Crete.
Likud bill to stifle MK defections to come up for Knesset committee vote
A Likud-backed bill that would make it more difficult for rebellious MKs to defect from their parties without facing sanctions is approved for a vote by the Knesset’s temporary Finance Committee this afternoon.
Part of a suite of four bills being rushed through their legislative process, the bill passed its preliminary reading yesterday.
The new law will eliminate a provision enabling four MKs to split off into their own unsanctioned faction. Instead, the bill will require a minimum of one-third of a party to effect a split.
This will help prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu combat discord in his 32-lawmaker-strong Likud party, effectively needing at least 11 MKs to leave.
National religious spiritual leader Druckman hospitalized as COVID worsens
National religious camp spiritual leader Rabbi Chaim Druckman is hospitalized in serious condition at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, after his condition deteriorated.
Drukman, 90, was being treated at home in Merkaz Shapira since he began to feel ill on Friday after contracting COVID, his family said.
He was already listed in serious but stable condition before this latest deterioration.
Druckman is widely seen as the spiritual leader of the politically ascendant right-wing camp, and closely advises Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the far-right Religious Zionism party.
Lawyer says young protester on death row in Iran given stay of execution
A young Iranian who had been sentenced to death for his actions during protests over the death of Mahsa Amini has been given a stay of execution, his lawyer says.
Mahan Sadrat was one of nearly a dozen Iranians sentenced to death after being convicted of capital offenses during the nationwide protests that erupted in mid-September.
“My client, Mahan, was saved from execution,” lawyer Abbas Mousavi announces in an Instagram post.
Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency quotes a statement from the supreme court media office as saying the death sentence against Sadrat had been “suspended.”
Sadrat, who is in his early 20s, had been found guilty of “moharebeh” — or “enmity against God” — an Islamic sharia law offense that carries the death penalty in Iran.
His conviction was based on allegations he had drawn a knife, causing fear and insecurity, Iran’s official IRNA news agency said.
Iran’s judiciary has said it has handed down 11 death sentences in connection with the protests.
In the past week, it has hanged Mohsen Shekari and Majidreza Rahnavard, both 23, the latter in public rather than in prison as has been usual in Iran in recent years.
Police minister reveals classified information at Knesset debate
Outgoing Internal Security Minister Omer Barlev reveals classified information at a Knesset debate on expanding the ministerial powers over the force.
Barlev brought up the police use of Ruger sniper rifles during riot control efforts on the Temple Mount last year.
During the debate, police chief Kobi Shabtai asked for the comments to be redacted, although they were made during a live broadcast.
Expected incoming police minister Itamar Ben Gvir slams Barlev, accusing him of “exposing secrets for political gain.”
The 22-caliber Ruger sniper rifle is considered less lethal than standard-issue rifles and is authorized for use in riot control efforts under certain circumstances.
Undercover officers arrest armed terror suspect near Nablus
Undercover Border Police officers arrest a terror suspect near the West Bank city of Nablus, police say.
The daylight operation in the village of Salem came after they received information from the Shin Bet.
The man was found to be carrying a handgun and a magazine at the time of his arrest.
No injuries are reported in the raid.
Deputy AG warns Ben Gvir law will harm independence of police
The Attorney General’s Office warns against a new law expanding the authority of the national security minister — set to be Otzma Yehudit head Itamar Ben Gvir — over the police force.
Speaking at a Knesset debate on the law, Deputy Attorney General Amit Marari says it will harm the independence of the force.
“There are problems with the legislative process for this law,” she says. “It is not suited for speedy legislation a moment before the establishment of the government because it needs a deeper debate.”
“The current proposal is not balanced and cannot assure the continued independence of the police,” she says.
Elusive Hamas military chief calls on all groups to unite to liberate Palestine
Hamas’s military commander Muhammad Deif issues a rare statement to mark the 35th anniversary of the founding of the terror group, calling on all factions to unite to “liberate Palestine.”
“You won’t manage to oppress our people or eliminate our identity from our land,” Deif tells Israelis in a recorded message.
“All the factions must unite for one great goal, the liberation of Palestine,” he says.
The elusive Hamas military wing leader Deif has been on Israel’s most-wanted list for over 25 years for his involvement in the planning and execution of a large number of terror attacks, including many bus bombings in years past. The Israeli military considers Deif to be a skilled field commander.
Israeli security services tried to kill Deif at least seven times over the years. The first such attempt took place in 2001, a second in 2002, costing him his eye, and a third a year later. Another strike was conducted in 2006 in which he was seriously injured, losing both of his legs and one arm.
Iran sentences Belgian aid worker to 28 years – family
Iranian authorities have imposed a 28-year sentence on jailed Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele, a spokesman for his family says.
“The family are devastated,” spokesman Olivier Van Steirtegem tells AFP, after the Belgian government informed the family of the news.
Vandecasteele, 41, launched a hunger strike over the “inhuman” treatment by his captors in Iran, his family said last week, expressing worries about his failing health.
He is one of several Western nationals detained in Iran, in what foreign-based activists have said is a bid to extract concessions. Most of them also hold Iranian passports.
Police chief urges ‘caution’ in passing law expanding minister’s control over force
Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai speaks at a Knesset committee meeting debating a new law expanding the authority of the national security minister — set to be Otzma Yehudit head Itamar Ben Gvir — over the police force.
Shabtai warns, “I am sure that the proposed law will have a dramatic impact on the character of the Israel Police. Dramatic changes like these need to be done with caution and through an in-depth and professional process.”
“The police is not the army, it is exposed to sensitive information about Israel’s citizens,” he says.
The law, which passed the first reading on the Knesset floor yesterday, deals with the police commissioner’s subordination to Ben Gvir’s post as national security minister.
However, Shabtai argues that there is no need for such a law.
“The internal security minister has great powers today. I have served under two ministers so far and I never encountered a situation that would indicate a problem. There was no case in which a minister asked for his policies to be carried out and we did not do so,” Shabtai says.
“It’s hard for me to understand the claims that the minister is a rubber stamp,” he says.
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