The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.
Erdogan: Assad responsible for Aleppo ceasefire breakdown
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is blaming Syrian President Bashar Assad for the collapse of a ceasefire in Aleppo, which was intended to allow civilians and rebel fighters to leave the city.
According to Channel 2, Erdogan says he intends to speak with Russia President Vladimir Putin, a key Assad backer, about the breakdown of the truce.
Hezbollah: Aleppo truce must include Iran, Russia
The Lebanon-based terror group Hezbollah says any agreement to end the fighting in the Syrian city of Aleppo must include all parties, including Iran and Russia, the Walla news website reports.
Hezbollah forces are participating in the fighting in Syria alongside the Assad regime and its allies.
According to Hezbollah, some 15,000 people are trying to leave Aleppo, including some 4,000 rebel fighters rebel groups.
New protest art shows naked PM with noose next to groin
A day after an art student is questioned by police over an image of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu beside a noose with the word “rope” emblazoned across the bottom, a new sketch appears at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem.
The latest drawing depicts a naked Netanyahu with a noose placed across his genitals, and the words “Is it okay like this, attorney general?” scrawled across the image.
תמונת המחאה שנתלתה כעת בבצלאל בעקבות מעצרה של הסטודנטית מהמיצג של נתניהו והחבל pic.twitter.com/sTOFOa44JU
— עמרי מניב omri maniv (@omrimaniv) December 14, 2016
The original image was taken from a larger piece of artwork that referred to a protest against Yitzhak Rabin in the run-up to his 1995 assassination.
— Yoav Rabinovitz 🇮🇱 (@yoavr) December 13, 2016
Likud youth wing calls for Bezalel closure over naked PM art
The youth wing of Netanyahu’s Likud party is calling for the closure of Bezalel Art Academy following the appearance of a second drawing mocking the PM, this time depicting him as naked.
“We are looking for creative ways to describe the disgusting [images] sweeping Bezalel in recent days, and admit it is a little difficult for us. It seems that some Bezalel students are confused between freedom of expression and the art of clear incitement,” says Likud Youth chairman David Shain, according to Channel 2.
“An academic institution that backs this kind of low and perverse incitement has no right to exist,” Shain says. “We urge the authorities to act quickly against the instigators and close the gates of Bezalel pending a full clarification. Act today before God forbid it is too late.”
Palestinian official: Paris to hold peace summit in January
Palestinian Ambassador to France Salman Al Harfi says Paris will hold its conference on the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process in January, Channel 2 reports, quoting Palestinian radio.
The conference was originally intended to take place on December 21. According to Channel 10 news, the Palestinian envoy to France told his superiors earlier this week that the delay was due to French officials needing more time to prepare and had nothing to with Israel’s refusal to participate in the summit.
Jerusalem attacker dies of injuries
The assailant who stabbed a cop in Jerusalem city has died of his wounds in Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus, a hospital spokesperson says.
The 21-year-old Palestinian arrived at the hospital in critical condition after he was shot by other officers at the scene. After extensive CPR attempts, doctors pronounced him dead, the spokesperson says.
In addition, the East Jerusalem child who says the assailant attacked him as well has been downgraded from light to moderate condition, though he is fully conscious, Hadassah Hospital says.
— Judah Ari Gross
Horny rhinos rampage over Rihanna in Ramat Gan
Two male rhinos have been fighting for the attentions of a female at Ramat Gan Safari, the park says.
According to the park, the 6-year-old Rihanna (named for the singer) was supposed to mate with Zion, a 27-year-old rhino, but love rival Atari also wanted to spend quality time with the object of his affections and cut Zion out.
The two males then came to blows, with Zion, who is 10 years Atari’s junior, managing to push the older suitor into the water in the enclosure and leaving him struggling to get out.
The flailing Atari was eventually pushed out the water with a firm shove on the behind from some helpful hippos, the park says. The older animal was physically unscathed in the altercation. There was no word, however, on the damage to his ego.
Herzliya homes evacuated over suspected car bomb
Two residential buildings on Hess Street in Herzliya are evacuated due to fears of an explosive device in an adjacent car.
The street is closed to traffic and sappers are dispatched to the scene to examine the suspected device, Ynet reports.
Hebron chief rabbi to Amona residents: Don’t take deal that admits land belongs to non-Jews
Kiryat Arba-Hebron Chief Rabbi Dov Lior urges residents of the Amona outpost to refuse any compromise that concedes that the land upon which it stands belongs to non-Jews.
The High Court has ruled that the outpost, which is built on privately owned Palestinian land, must be demolished by December 25.
“Do not accept any compromise in which the residents appear to admit that the land belongs to non-Jews,” Lior writes in his letter, according to Israel National News.
“I was asked by one of the residents whether to support the compromise discussed recently, to replicate the settlement in another location deemed to be absentee property [unclaimed land owned by Palestinians]. The answer is one according to our holy Torah: The Land of Israel belongs exclusively to the people of Israel and there is no ownership of our land unless it is bought by Jews. Therefore this current reality does not accept any compromise in which residents appear to admit that the land belongs to a non-Jew.”
PM to Kazakh leader: Tell bellicose Iran that Israel is a tiger
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev asks Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting today in Astana if he has a message for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who is planning to visit the Central Asian country next week.
“Ask him why Iran continues to threaten us with annihilation,” Netanyahu replies. “Don’t you understand: we’re not a rabbit. We’re a tiger.”
Nazarbayev agrees to convey the message.
— Raphael Ahren
Kuwaitis protest over Aleppo outside Russian Embassy
Hundreds of Kuwaitis gather outside the Russian Embassy demanding a halt to the violence in Aleppo, where Moscow is helping Syrian government forces drive rebels from their last enclave.
The crowds are drawn from various backgrounds, and include both liberals and Islamists. Protesters carry pictures of Syrian children and posters of President Bashar Assad with a swastika.
Parliament member Jamaan al-Herbish demands that his country sever ties with Russia because of its support for Assad. He also calls for Kuwait to allow more Syrians into the country, saying “we have to support our fellow Arab brothers and sisters against the attacks and crimes by the Syrian regime and its allies.”
Former parliament member Ahmad al-Shahoomi calls the fight for Aleppo a “battle against Sunni Islam.”
— Sh3koll (@sh3koll) December 14, 2016
Rapper vows to quit music after row over anti-Semitic lyrics
American rapper Lupe Fiasco says he will cancel the album he is working on and stop releasing new music after he is accused of anti-Semitism for referencing “dirty Jewish execs” in a newly released freestyle rap.
The lyrics for the song titled “N.E.R.D.” include: “Artists gettin’ robbed for their publishing / By dirty Jewish execs who think that it’s alms from the covenant.”
The Anti-Defamation League condemned the lyrics in a statement released yesterday.
“The lyrics about artists being robbed by ‘dirty Jewish execs’ are offensive,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “These lyrics reinforce the anti-Semitic myth of Jewish control of the music industry, a stereotype that has been exploited in recent years by well-known hatemongers. It is irresponsible for a recording artist to perpetuate the hateful anti-Semitic stereotype of the ‘greedy Jew.’”
Fiasco spent hours on Twitter from last night debating with fans whether the lyrics were anti-Semitic, finally declaring in a tweet today: “I get the hint God. Yo Lupe fans it’s been fun and I hope you’ve had fun. I’m officially not releasing anymore music. Albums cancelled”
Bezalel students seal mouths in protest over removal of PM pics
Students at Bezalel Art Academy hold a sit-in and seal up their mouths to protest censorship following a row over the removal of images of Netanyahu displayed at the school.
The first image showed the prime minister behind a noose and saw its creator being questioned by police yesterday. The second image, which went up earlier today to protest the row over the original piece, depicts Netanyahu naked with the same noose over his genitalia. The second image is accompanied by the phrase: “Is this okay, attorney general?”
Kenya expels 2 Iranians over Israeli embassy plot
Kenya kicks out two Iranian nationals who were charged in an alleged plot to attack the Israeli embassy in Nairobi.
The two were charged earlier this month with collecting information to carry out a terrorist attack after they were allegedly found with video footage of the Israeli embassy.
Israel Radio reports that the charges were dropped after Kenya’s prosecutors struck a deal with the Iranian embassy in Nairobi, and the two were expelled from the country.
Syrian regime seizes another rebel area of Aleppo — Russia
The Russian military says Syrian government forces have seized another district in eastern Aleppo, further squeezing a small remaining rebel enclave.
The military’s Center for Reconciliation in Syria says the Syrian troops retook the Sukkari quarter, reducing the area still under rebel control to 2.5 square kilometers (less than a square mile).
A ceasefire deal between the rebels and the Syrian government that was to allow the evacuation of rebels and civilians from eastern Aleppo effectively collapsed earlier today, with the government and the rebels blaming each other for its failure.
The Russian military says the Syrian government forces were observing the ceasefire, but the rebels fired at a convoy that was to carry the evacuees to the rebel-held Idlib province at dawn.
Bullet holes found in French synagogue’s front wall, mailbox
Police are investigating the discovery of bullet holes at a synagogue in Western France.
Officers, who are viewing the incident as a possible hate crime, have been twice called over the past three weeks to the synagogue of Le Havre, the news website Paris-Normandie reports. (Link in French)
The first set of bullet holes was discovered in the building’s façade on Nov. 28 and another, which included the mailbox, was discovered on Dec. 2, the newspaper says.
The French government has deployed approximately 12,000 police and military around synagogues and other Jewish community buildings, where they provide constant protection during activity hours, and at some locales around the clock.
— simon louvet (@LouvetSimon) December 12, 2016
Bezalel students, faculty to strike over PM pics row
Students and lecturers at Bezalel Art Academy in Jerusalem say they will hold a short strike tomorrow to protest “the violation of freedom of expression” following a row over images of Netanyahu — one showing him with a noose and the second depicting him naked with the same noose over his genitalia.
The school’s management and student union decided during a joint discussion to halt studies for two hours and instead spend the time on an open debate on creativity and freedom of expression, Walla reports.
Lecturers, department heads and the academy’s management will join the strike along with the students.
גם נתניהו התפשט במחאה?! pic.twitter.com/wABr6gOCiP
— אייב לוי (@ablevi1) December 14, 2016
Bezalel: Students protesting threat to freedom of speech
Bezalel Academy of Art and Design says the protest today by its students who taped up their mouths stems from a fear that their freedom of speech is under threat in an ongoing row over provocative drawings of Netanyahu.
“Students at Bezalel, as are artists around the world, feel very passionately about their work,” says Bezalel spokesperson Michal Turgeman, in a statement sent to the media.
“The events at our academy over the past few days have touched on the passion of many of our students. The peaceful bipartisan demonstration that our students held today was against the potential threat to their freedom of speech,” she says.
“As an institute of higher education, we have a responsibility to not only teach our students to maintain their right to self-expression, but to also balance that with responsibility towards the power of their work. Striking that balance is always tricky, but something that students, their teachers, and our institution must continue to strive for.”
Knesset speaker to set up panel on parliament dress code
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein announces the formation of a committee to look into the dress code in parliament, after parliamentary aides protested at being turned away for skirts deemed too short.
Edelstein’s announcement comes after he met today with a number of MKs, including Zionist Union lawmaker Merav Michaeli, whose aide triggered the start of the protests when she was refused entry to the Knesset over the length of her skirt.
Other MKs present included Yael German, Karin Elharar and Aliza Lavie from Yesh Atid; Aida Touma-Suleiman and Dov Khenin from the Joint (Arab) List; Manuel Trajtenberg of Zionist Union; Rachel Azaria of Kulanu; and Ilan Gilon from Meretz. Knesset Director Albert Sakharovich also attended.
According to a statement from Eldestein’s office, all of the lawmakers present clearly emphasized the need to observe a dress code at the entrance to the parliament compound, one which is respectful to all who visit and which preserves the dignity of the Knesset.
Exiled Abbas rival Dahlan sentenced to 3 years for corruption
An official says a Palestinian court has sentenced a political foe of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to three years in prison for allegedly embezzling $16 million as a cabinet minister.
Former Fatah strongman Mohammad Dahlan has lived in exile since falling out with Abbas in 2010. He was sentenced in absentia.
Since the rift, Abbas has taken a series of steps to block Dahlan’s possible return to a West Bank leadership position. Egypt and other Arab states all want Abbas to allow Dahlan to return.
The ruling comes after a constitutional court upheld Abbas’ right to strip Dahlan and four of his allies of their parliamentary immunity.
Assad: Trump could be ‘natural ally’ against terrorists
Syrian President Bashar Assad tells Russian state television that Donald Trump could be a “natural ally” should he follow through on a pledge to tackle terror.
“If Trump can genuinely fight against terrorism, he can be our natural ally,” says Assad in the interview broadcast today, according to Reuters.
But Assad also casts doubt on the president-elect’s sincerity to do so now that he has won the election.
Israeli car comes under fire in West Bank; no injuries
Shots are reportedly fired at an Israeli vehicle traveling through the West Bank, but no one is injured.
Photos of the vehicle show bullet holes in the side and on the door, as well as a child in the backseat.
The army says it’s aware of the incident, and is still investigating what happened.
— Amichai Stein (@AmichaiStein1) December 14, 2016
–Judah Ari Gross
Police say student’s image of PM is not incitement
A police investigation into a student at Bezalel Academy of Art who created an image of Netanyahu with a noose finds the work does not constitute incitement to violence.
Investigators believe the image was created without malicious intent, Channel 2 reports.
Jerusalem District police have already passed the matter on to prosecutors, along with their findings, for a final decision.
Knesset relaxes dress code pending panel findings
MKs and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein agree that the Knesset Guard will relax the rules on acceptable attire and not turn away people based on skirt length until a newly formed committee presents its recommendations on the parliamentary dress code.
The meeting follows a protest by parliamentary aides against renewed dress code rules that led to several female employees being turned away over the length of their skirts.
The decision to relax the rules comes after MKs agree to speak to their aides and request that they act with “common sense,” Edelstein’s spokesman tells The Times of Israel.
— Raoul Wootliff
Jewish groups to skip Hanukkah party at Trump hotel
Four major Jewish organizations will skip today’s Hanukkah party co-hosted by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Embassy of Azerbaijan at a Washington hotel owned by Donald Trump.
The Jewish Federations of North America, the ADL, the AJC and Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America will not be on hand for the party at the Trump International Hotel, in absences first reported by Haaretz.
The venue has caused controversy, but none of the four major groups ascribe their absences to concerns about Trump. The ADL, JFNA and Hadassah all attribute their absence to scheduling conflicts, while the AJC says its absence is not meant as a slight toward Azerbaijan.
But eight liberal Jewish groups, including the Union for Reform Judaism and the National Council of Jewish Women, say they will not attend in protest of Trump’s policies or his conflicts of interest.
A counter-protest organized by IfNotNow, a Jewish group that opposes Trump and Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, is expected to draw some 200 people.
IDF: Forces searching for gunman behind shooting attack
The IDF says it is hunting for a gunman who carried out a shooting attack on an Israeli car in the West Bank a short time ago.
The army confirms that the car came under fire near the village of Deir Abu Mash’al, west of Ramallah, and says forces are searching the area for the perpetrator who fled the scene.
— Judah Ari Gross
PM hails Jewish-Muslim coexistence on Astana synagogue visit
Netanyahu praises Kazakhstan as a model of Jewish-Muslim coexistence that could be an example for the Mideast, during a visit to a Chabad synagogue in the predominantly Muslim country’s capital city of Astana.
“Israel receives a strong standing among the nations not with a bowed head but by being steadfast and proud. And I say this here, in Central Asia, in an Islamic country that respects Israel, that honors coexistence and tolerance, and constitutes a model of what needs to happen – and can happen – in our region as well,” he says, according to a statement from his office.
UN body says Aleppo rebels may be using civilians as shields
The UN’s Commission of Inquiry for Syria (COI) says it received reports that opposition fighters are blocking civilians from fleeing Aleppo and using them as human shields.
In a statement, the COI says it has “allegations of opposition groups… preventing civilians from leaving as well as opposition fighters embedding themselves within the civilian population, thus heightening the risk to civilians of being killed or injured.”
It specifically implicates al-Qaeda’s former affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front and the powerful Ahrar al-Sham rebel group.
The COI also notes grave allegations leveled against pro-government forces in Aleppo, including “summary executions, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances and forced conscription.”
The commission says Assad’s government is now in “effective control” of eastern Aleppo, and therefore has “primary responsibility” for ensuring that violations in the city are stopped.
‘Erdogan, Putin agree Aleppo truce violations must stop’
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agree in a phone call that violations of a ceasefire deal agreed for the Syrian city of Aleppo should stop, say Turkish presidential sources.
“In the phone call, they stressed that the ceasefire agreement secured yesterday night should be put into practice (and) the violations of the deal must be stopped,” the sources say.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov confirms to RIA Novosti state news agency only that the call took place.
Trump’s NSA pick probed by army for intel leaks
The Washington Post says the retired general chosen by Donald Trump as national security adviser was investigated for inappropriately sharing classified information with foreign officers while serving in Afghanistan.
That’s according to documents made public Wednesday by the Post and obtained by The Associated Press.
An Army investigation concluded that while some intelligence was wrongly shared by Michael Flynn, a major general at the time, it was “not done knowingly.” No action was taken against Flynn.
The Post and others had previously reported about the investigation, which had been classified as secret.
The investigation found no evidence of misconduct or damage to national security. The documents do not detail what information he shared, or with whom.
Tel Aviv moves to promote women in business
Tel Aviv city hall is seeking to boost women in business by giving companies with a female top exec priority when it hands out its tenders, Channel 2 reports.
The move comes amid reports that only four percent of Israel companies are headed by a woman, far below the world average of 20%.
Iran’s Rouhani congratulates Assad on Aleppo ‘victory’
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani phones his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad to congratulate him on the impending defeat of rebel forces in the battleground city of Aleppo, his website says.
“The victory in Aleppo… constitutes a great victory for the Syrian people against terrorists and those who support them,” Rouhani tells Assad.
Iran has not committed its regular army to the Syrian conflict, but its paramilitary Revolutionary Guards have played a crucial coordinating role. Thousands of Iranian volunteers — many of them motivated by a desire to protect Shiite shrines in Syria — are thought to have fought on the frontline.
With just a small pocket of rebel resistance left in Aleppo, Tehran officials say the offensive has underlined Iran’s growing regional clout.
“The coalition between Iran, Russia, Syria and Hezbollah led to the liberation of Aleppo and will next liberate Mosul (in Iraq),” says Yahya Safavi, top adviser to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Safavi says a clear message is being sent to Trump, who has vowed to take a tougher line with Iran.
El Al flight to Canada grounded for lack of pilots
A El Al flight due to take off tonight from Tel Aviv to Toronto is postponed until the morning due to a lack of available pilots.
According to Army Radio, the El Al pilots’ committee says that a spate of non-scheduled flights — including some by Netanyahu — has led to a shortfall in available staff.
“There are currently no available pilots who can work a four-day flight at short notice. We regret that more than 200 passengers will have to wait until morning,” the committee says.
El Al declined to respond, Army Radio says.