The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they happened.

Coalition agreement includes death penalty for terrorists

Otzma Yehudit says Likud has agreed to its demand for a law imposing the death penalty on terrorists, along with a commitment to pass the measure before Israel gets a budget for 2023.

A clause in the agreement cites “the intensification of terror attacks aimed at harming Israel as a Jewish state, and the need to notch a decisive victory against the attackers,” as reasons for imposing a death penalty, Otzma says in a statement.

Capital punishment for terrorists has long been a demand of right-wing lawmakers, but has never found enough support to become law. While Israel has a death penalty on the books, it has only been used twice since the state’s founding.

The statement does not say what kinds of terror offenses will be subject to capital punishment. Israel’s definition of terror has been criticized for encompassing a wide array of actions, including throwing rocks at heavily armed soldiers.

Half of UTJ balks at deal with Likud, demands reopening of talks

Incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu may claim to have a government in his pocket, but members of the Degel Hatorah faction within the United Torah Judaism party say they did not agree to everything in a coalition deal between Likud and UTJ.

A letter to Netanyahu from Degel chief Moshe Gafni and three other MKs calls for talks to re-open, noting that while they attempted to negotiate together with Agudath Yisrael, the other side of the party, the final agreement has clauses they oppose, and leaves out matters they were still in talks over, Ynet reports.

Among the matters under dispute are an agreement to add UTJ head Yitzhak Goldknopf to the security cabinet, which would put the party in the position of sending people to war, along with clauses it says do not sufficiently address mandatory military service and a housing crisis.

“We request that talks between Degel Hatorah and Likud be reopened immediately,” they write.

Citing security, Israel scrambles to line up ‘no’ votes on Hague probe at UN

Ahead of the upcoming UN General Assembly vote on whether to ask the International Court of Justice to weigh in on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an Israeli official says that the Palestinians “are trying to render Israel’s security presence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem illegal.”

Support for the resolution shows “contempt for and dismissal of Israeli security concerns,” continues the official.

The resolution, titled “Israeli practices and settlement activities affecting the rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories,” requests that the Hague-based ICJ “render urgently an advisory opinion” on Israel’s “prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation of Palestinian territory.”

The UNGA vote is not yet scheduled, but will occur between Friday and the end of the year.

The resolution passed the UN General Assembly Fourth Committee in November, with 98 supporting, 17 opposing, and 52 abstaining.

Israel “sees a chance to raise the number of countries opposed,” says the official, “but many factors influence that.”

Illustrated: A general view of the United Nations General Assembly at UN Headquarters, September 21, 2016. (AP/Jason DeCrow)

“We know that there is an automatic majority,” the official says. Israel is trying to get more “like-minded” countries to oppose the measure or at least abstain.

“I think a lot of countries didn’t see it as a constructive step,” the official continues. “Even if they don’t agree with our policies, they oppose this step.”

Israel has reached out to around 100 countries, including 60 that received letters from Prime Minister Yair Lapid. President Herzog has also called world leaders on the issue.

The Biden Administration has also been extremely helpful in advocating against the measure, says the official.

If the vote passes, the ICJ will present a schedule in the coming weeks for countries and NGOs to offer their legal positions. The 15-judge panel will likely offer their advisory opinion in one to two years.

“The Palestinians are trying to create activity in the international arena instead of focusing on the real challenges that we see on the ground,” says the official, pointing at attacks by terrorist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Judge okays $250 million bond, house arrest for fallen crypto whiz Bankman-Fried

Cryptocurrency entrepreneur Sam Bankman-Fried can post $250 million bond and live in his parents’ home in California while he awaits trial on charges that he swindled investors and looted customer deposits on his FTX trading platform,  Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein says as Bankman-Fried appears in US District Court in Manhattan.

Assistant US Attorney Nicolas Roos tells the court that Bankman-Fried, 30, “perpetrated a fraud of epic proportions,” but proposes bail, citing the fact that Bankman-Fried agreed to waive extradition.

Bankman-Fried, arrested in the Bahamas last week, was flown to New York late Wednesday after deciding not to challenge his extradition.

FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, is escorted from the Magistrate Court in Nassau, Bahamas, December 21, 2022, after agreeing to be extradited to the US. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Prosecutors and regulators contend that Bankman-Fried was at the center of several illegal schemes to use customer and investor money for personal gain. He faces the possibility of decades in prison if convicted on all counts.

In a series of interviews before his arrest, Bankman-Fried says he never intended to defraud anyone.

Bankman-Fried is charged with using money, illicitly taken from FTX customers, to enable trades at Alameda, spend lavishly on real estate, and make millions of dollars in campaign contributions to US politicians.

Netanyahu: Lapid left Israel in ruins, tells him to ‘go home’

Responding to outgoing prime minister Yair Lapid’s speech warning against his future government, Likud chief Benjamin Netanyahu paints a dystopian view of the country that he is taking over.

“Lapid, who has left a ruined country in economic and diplomatic collapse, with Iran galloping toward nuclear [capabilities] without any response, with murder and violence rampant, preaches to the next government with baseless inventions,” he says in a statement.

“You lost the election,” he adds. “Go home.”

Mossad chief says Iran looking to step up arms shipments to Russia

Mossad head David Barnea says Iran is planning to expand its supply of arms to Russia, as well as ramp up nuclear enrichment and double down on efforts to take harmful actions against countries in the region.

“We are warning about Iran’s future plans, which they have tried to keep quiet, to deepen and expand the delivery of advanced weaponry to Russia,” he tells a ceremony to honor agents of distinction.

Iran earlier denied sending drones to Russia to use against Ukraine, after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Moscow and Tehran of working together for “genocidal” aims on Wednesday.

“Iran is becoming more extreme, and stepping up attempts to carry out terror attacks, which we stop every day, around the world,” Barnea says.

He notes specifically that Iran is looking to take action against “friendly Muslim countries in the region,” without specifying.

Hours after Tehran claimed to have arrested members of four Mossad-run “terror rings” planning to carry out attacks using months-long protests across Iran as cover, Barnea says Israel “has clear proof that the protests are challenging the Iranian regime.”

“We see clearly that the regime, supposedly strong, is surprised and scared.”

Lapid: Incoming gov’t ‘not committed to democracy,’ ‘dismantles foundations of Israeli society’

Outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid gives an address to the nation, warning about the incoming coalition, December 22, 2022. (Channel 12 screenshot)
Outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid gives an address to the nation, warning about the incoming coalition, December 22, 2022. (Channel 12 screenshot)

Outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid delivers a bleak and bitter address, warning against the agenda of successor Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition, saying the Likud leader is weak and beholden to extremist partners who will send the country down the road to ruin.

“The government being formed here is dangerous, extremist, irresponsible. This will end badly,” he charges in a televised address, saying he is speaking out of “profound concern for the future of Israeli society.”

Lapid says that “Netanyahu is weak, and [his partners] have created the most extreme government in the nation’s history.”

“Likud didn’t form the government. They did,” he says.

The incoming coalition is the government that Otzma Yehudit’s Itamar Ben Gvir, Religious Zionism’s Bezalel Smotrich and Shas’s Arye Deri “have imposed on him.”

“They’ve established the most extreme government in the history of the state,” he says. This government “dismantles the foundations of Israeli society.”

Moving into specifics, Lapid says “the coalition agreements give an ultra-Orthodox student who doesn’t learn math and English thousands of shekels more than a student in the state education system.”

A yeshiva student who doesn’t serve in the IDF or work, meanwhile, will get more money than an IDF soldier, he says. “It’s a fire sale of Israel’s future.”

Lapid says the IDF “will be harmed… Ministers will appoint political generals who will sit on the General Staff. The defense minister will lose his authority over the Civil Administration. And in Judea and Samaria… it’s not clear who will be responsible for what. It’s a recipe for an explosion.”

Regarding incoming police minister Ben Gvir, Lapid declares: “Show me a state in the world where the man responsible for the police is a violent criminal with 53 indictments and 8 convictions for serious offenses.”

As for the Education Ministry, he says Avi Maoz, head of the Noam faction, “a dark racist, a man who, it was today publicized, has blacklists of LGBTQ people and activists in women’s organizations, will be in charge of the education of our children.” Young parents will not be able to send their children to school without fear that they will be brainwashed, he charges.

He says Israel’s international standing will be damaged, including in the struggle against Iran. It won’t be able to prevent sanctions against Israel, he says.

“This is the first government in the history of Israel that the United States does not regard as its closest ally,” he adds.

He says the incoming government will lead to the stalling of the high-tech engine that drives the Israeli economy. It will preside over an economy that “encourages people not to work, wastes billions of shekels on sectoral demands.” The cost of living will rise and rise, he warns.

The coalition will also harm “the Jews of the world,” he says. Reform and Conservative Jews, a decisive majority of the American Jewish community, “will not be able to regard Israel as their second homeland.” Planned changes to the Law of Return “will put an end to the welcome immigration wave from Russia and Ukraine.”

He says the new government “is not committed to democracy, is not committed to the rule of law, and now it is trying to silence the opposition. They tell us, ‘Accept the results of the election.’ When we won the elections [last year], they pursued the children of Knesset members on the way to school, sent thugs to attack our activists… churned out toxic lies and slurs to delegitimize the government. We won’t do any of that, but we will fight for our country from every place and every platform,” he vows.

Lapid promises to battle from the opposition for the rule of law and the rights of women, the LGBT community, “IDF values,” education and “tolerant Jewish identity,” while calling on citizens to also take part in the struggle.

“Be on guard against a dangerous, extreme and irresponsible government, with a weak prime minister who has lost control even before being sworn in.”

Blinken fetes Netanyahu over new government, says they can agree to disagree

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken congratulates Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu on forming a new government and reiterates that the Biden administration will judge the next coalition based on its policies, rather than the personalities of those who make up what is being described as the most right-wing cabinet in Israeli history.

“I want to extend congratulations to Prime Minister Netanyahu on announcing the formation of a new government. The Knesset still has to approve it before it can be formally sworn in, but we look forward to working with Israel to advance both the interests and the values that have long been at the heart of our relationship and also to promot[e] a broader approach to try and bring equal measures of security, opportunity, prosperity and dignity to Israelis and Palestinians alike,” Blinken says when asked about the new government during a press appearance at the State Department.

“We’ve demonstrated over successive Israeli governments and over successive American administrations [that] precisely because we have a rock solid partnership and one that is committed to Israel’s security that we can have very candid conversations when we disagree,” Blinken continues. “That’s not going to change either.”

Lebanon says suspect identified in killing of UNIFIL blue helmet

Lebanese investigators have identified suspects in the fatal shooting of an Irish United Nations peacekeeper whose vehicle came under fire earlier this month, a judicial official told AFP on Thursday.

Private Sean Rooney, 23, was killed and three others injured on December 14 when their UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) vehicle was attacked near the village of Al-Aqbiya in Lebanon’s south.

The area is a stronghold of the powerful Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah.

“The investigation has been able to identify suspects but so far none has been arrested and the security services are still looking for them,” said the judicial official who could not be further identified.

The UN patrol “was the target of gunfire from at least two people” when it arrived in Al-Aqbiya, according to the same source.

Citing preliminary findings, the source said the incident “was premeditated and the patrol was surveilled and followed by a car carrying armed men.”

Wafic Safa, Hezbollah’s security chief, has said the killing was “unintentional.”

Witnesses said villagers in the Al-Aqbiya area blocked Rooney’s vehicle after it took a road along the Mediterranean coast not normally used by UNIFIL.

Al-Aqbiya is just outside UNIFIL’s area of operations, the force said.

Lebanese soldiers stand behind a damaged UNIFIL vehicle at the scene where a peacekeeper convoy came under gunfire in the Al-Aqbiya village, south Lebanon, December 15, 2022. (AP/Mohammed Zaatari)

According to the judicial official, the patrol was “harassed and intercepted at two locations before reaching the scene of the incident.”

The official said, without elaboration, that there had been “difficulties linked to the investigation,” but interviews with civilian witnesses led to the suspects’ identification.

Man shot to death in Kafr Kara, marking third slaying in day

A man has been shot to death while in his car near the town of Kafr Kara, seemingly marking the third homicide in the Arab community in under 24 hours.

A bullet-riddled car is seen following a deadly shooting near Kafr Kara on December 22, 2022. (Courtesy)

The victim is described by medics as a man in his 20s. He is declared dead at the scene.

Police are probing the slaying and say they have yet to identify the victim. There is no word on suspects or possible motivation.

Pictures from the scene, on Route 65 at the entrance to Kafr Kara south of Haifa, show a car riddled with bullet holes and several windows shot out.

The slaying comes hours after a man was shot to death in a Haifa restaurant, in what was thought to be a revenge attack for a double homicide two days earlier that left a Nazareth man and his 2-year-old son dead, amid on ongoing feud between two warring criminal rings in northern Israel.

On Wednesday night, a 19-year-old man was shot to death in Jaffa in what was suspected to be a deal over airsoft guns gone bad.

Otzma Yehudit clarifies it will only repeal part of law barring racists

An Otzma Yehudit spokesperson tells The Times of Israel that the party is only demanding that a clause barring racists from running for the Knesset be repealed.

The clarification comes after reports and its own statements indicated that the party also sought to remove parts of the law barring those who deny Israel’s Jewish and Democratic character, as well as those who support terror groups or enemy countries.

Racists are already everywhere, MKs respond amid plans to roll back Knesset ban

Labor party leader Merav Michaeli reacts to the incoming coalition’s plans to remove a clause from Israel’s basic laws barring racists and terror supporters from running for Knesset, saying it’s clearly ineffectual anyway.

In a Facebook post, Michaeli points out that the incoming coalition is made up of “one party that is only ultra-Orthodox Sephardi men, another one that is only ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazi men who ban Sephardi families from school they run, a party run by someone who would not want his wife to give birth next to an Arab mother, a party that is the flagship of Jewish supremacy, and a group of parties that maintains Reform Judaism is a form of Christianity,” references to Shas, UTJ, Religious Zionism and Otzma Yehudit.

“Look at yourselves — why even bother canceling [the clause]?” she asks.

Hadash-Ta’al MK Ahmad Tibi responds that the law won’t only pave the way into the Knesset for banned Otzma Yehudit members. “In the future, Ami Popper and the Duma killers. Yigal Amir too, there’s no bottom to the barrel,” he tweets.

Popper killed seven Palestinians at a bus stop in 1990, Amir killed prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and Amiram Ben-Uliel killed three members of the Dawabshe family, including an 18-month-old, when he carried out an arson attack on their home in the Palestinian village of Duma in 2016.

Army, police nab guns being smuggled over Jordan border

Israeli security forces have foiled an attempt to smuggle five handguns from Jordan into the West Bank for terror purposes, officials say.

Guns captured along the Israel-Jordan border, December 22, 2022. (Israel Police)

According to the Israel Defense Forces and Israel Police, troops and officers spotted two suspects along the border close to the Palestinian village of al-Auja.

One of the men, an 18-year-old Palestinian from the Hebron area was arrested, and weapons in his possession were seized.

The second suspect fled.

Police officials say they suspect the handguns were destined for terror elements in the West Bank.

Incidents of weapon smuggling on the border with Jordan are frequent, though officials say efforts to crack down are starting to bear fruit.

Otzma Yehudit says Likud agreed to laundry list of far-right demands

The Otzma Yehudit party releases a long list of what it says are legislative moves that it and Likud have agreed to pursue.

The partial roster, which is not confirmed by Likud, includes a commitment to cancel all of clause 7a of the Basic Law: The Knesset, which bars someone from running for national office if they negate Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, incite racism or support an enemy state or terror group.

The statement from the party says the laws have been used to disqualify politicians on the right, without noting that it would also open the door to the Knesset welcoming in politicians who back Palestinian or Iranian terrorism.

At the same time, the party will seek to have discrimination against ultra-Orthodox Jews be considered racism.

Other items include imposing minimum three-year sentences for “agricultural crimes,” granting soldiers immunity from prosecution, changing the Law of Return to restrict immigration, restarting efforts to deport asylum-seekers, a possible amnesty for those who owe back taxes, the creation of a third chief rabbi for the national religious community, sending the Shin Bet to deal with crime in the Arab community and NIS 150 million for planting olive trees in the West Bank “to stop Palestinian control of the land.”

Iran hits back at Ukraine’s Zelensky over drone claims

An undated photograph released shows the wreckage of what Kyiv has described as an Iranian Shahed drone downed near Kupiansk, Ukraine. (Ukrainian military's Strategic Communications Directorate via AP, File)
An undated photograph released shows the wreckage of what Kyiv has described as an Iranian Shahed drone downed near Kupiansk, Ukraine. (Ukrainian military's Strategic Communications Directorate via AP, File)

Iran’s Foreign Ministry says its patience with Kyiv is wearing thin, pushing back against accusations by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Tehran has supplied drones to bolster Russia’s war effort.

“Mr. Zelensky should realize that Iran’s strategic patience will not be unlimited towards unfounded accusations,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani says in a statement carried by Iranian state media.

In a speech to Congress yesterday, Zelensky said Iran was Russia’s partner in its “genocidal policy.”

“Iranian deadly drones sent to Russia in the hundreds became a threat to our critical infrastructure. That is how one terrorist has found the other,” he said.

Ukraine and Western powers, as well as Israel, have repeatedly accused Russia of using Iranian drones to attack civilians and power plants in Ukraine, a charge that both Moscow and Tehran have denied.

“Once again we emphasize that the Islamic Republic of Iran has not exported any military equipment to any party for use in the Ukraine war,” Kanaani says.

He also warns Zelensky against allying with Washington.

“Mr. Zelensky had better learn lessons from the fate of certain leaders of countries that relied upon support from the US,” he says.

Knesset to start 7-day clock for government swearing-in Monday

Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin will inform the Knesset on Monday that a new government intends to be formed, triggering a seven-day clock before it must be sworn in.

The Monday session will be the first after incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu informed President Isaac Herzog Wednesday night that he had a coalition in hand.

Netanyahu and his coalition partners are aiming to rush a series of legislative changes through the Knesset before the swearing-in, enshrining various demands in law. These include changes allowing convicted Shas head Aryeh Deri to serve as minister, and granting sweeping powers to allies that critics say will fundamentally alter the balance of power between parliament and the judiciary, and concentrate authority in the hands of far-right and ultra-Orthodox politicians.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this post incorrectly reported Levin’s statement. 

Progressive Jewish group decries deal to allow racists to run for Knesset

The head of the liberal Israel Religious Action Center says incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has “given a stamp of approval to the worst kind of flagrant racist incitement” by agreeing to legislation that would remove a clause from Israel’s Basic Laws barring racists from running for the Knesset.

“The incoming PM’s capitulation to the demands of his racist and extremist coalition partners undermines every ethical foundation of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state,” writes IRAC director Orly Erez-Likhovski in a statement.

IRAC, a branch of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, advocates for progressive values and pluralism in Israel.

The attorney, who was part of a group that petitioned the court to bar three Otzma Yehudit members from running for Knesset due to racist statements and actions, says it is “inconceivable for the Jewish people, who were victims of the most terrible racism, to give a stamp of approval to racism.”

Man killed in Haifa, in possible revenge attack for slaying of man and toddler son

A man has been shot dead in Haifa, in an attack being linked to the underworld slaying of a Nazareth man and his 2-year-old son on Tuesday.

Police say Mahran Abu Khiet, 23, was shot in the head in a restaurant in Haifa.

Reports indicate authorities believe the killing to be revenge for a Tuesday attack that killed Firas Heib, 33, and his son Fares, 2, as they sat in a car in Nazareth.

If it was indeed related, Abu Khiet would be the ninth victim of an ongoing blood feud between the Hariri and Bakri rival criminal groups, Kan news reports.

The latest shooting brings the number of members of the Arab community killed in violent incidents to 113 since the start of 2022, according to the Abraham Initiatives watchdog.

Firas’s father Khaled Heib yesterday accused police of not doing enough to prevent the killing, but denied his son was involved in criminal activity.


Reported deal with UTJ expands ultra-Orthodox say over policies, plus other goodies

Reports detailing a coalition deal between ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism and Likud say the agreement includes several clauses funneling benefits to the Haredi community, and will create a special committee to look into the issue of power generation on Shabbat, as well as giving the rabbinate a say over other public projects that could run up against Jewish law.

The deal also includes support for controversial far-reaching changes to the judicial system, including giving the Knesset the power to override court vetoes of laws ruled unconstitutional and reforms to the way judges are chosen, as well as giving ministers authority to appoint ministerial legal advisors, instead of the current system which places them under the authority of the Justice Ministry.

The deal, which has yet to be signed, includes a commitment to legislate moves already struck down by the High Court, including giving members of the ultra-Orthodox community a pass on mandatory military service and banning people from bringing leavened hametz into hospitals over Passover.

New schools and public transportation systems will be directed to ultra-Orthodox communities before other parts of the country under the reported agreement.

Ben Gvir backs off ‘rushed’ bill making police chief subordinate to him

A bill that would assign incoming national security minister Itamar Ben Gvir authority over the police force will be partially delayed, after a number of legal advisers warned against the rushed nature of the legislation currently making its way through a Knesset committee.

The most controversial part of the bill, which would force the police chief to acquiesce to the minister on policy decisions, will be pushed off until after the government is sworn in, expected in early January, along with a part of the bill relating to a timeline for police investigations, Ben Gvir tells the committee.

Other parts of the bill regarding authority granted to the revamped ministerial post and setting police policies on probes will stay on the table.

A statement from Otzma Yehudit says the clauses are split out “so the bill will not be struck down by the High Court.”

Yesh Atid takes credit for the delay, claiming that it worked “hour upon hour,” to reach “this amazing capitulation.”

Coalition deal would see erasure of clause barring racists from running for Knesset

Head of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party Itamar Ben Gvir (C) with Bentzi Gopstein (R) and Baruch Marzel (L) at the launch of the party's election campaign in Jerusalem on February 15, 2020. (Sindel/Flash90)
Head of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party Itamar Ben Gvir (C) with Bentzi Gopstein (R) and Baruch Marzel (L) at the launch of the party's election campaign in Jerusalem on February 15, 2020. (Sindel/Flash90)

An emerging coalition deal between the far-right Otzma Yehudit party and Likud reportedly includes a clause committing the government to revoke legislation that currently bars racist politicians from running for public office.

The report comes hours after Otzma Yehudit, led by anti-Arab extremist Itamar Ben Gvir, said it had reached an agreement with incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud on a framework for their yet-to-be-signed coalition deal.

According to Ynet, the agreement would see lawmakers work to amend Basic Law: Knesset to remove a clause that currently bans a Knesset campaign “should there be explicitly or implicitly in the goals or actions of the slate, or the actions of the person, including his expressions… incitement to racism.”

The move would pave a way into the Knesset for Baruch Marzel, Bentzi Gopstein, and Michael Ben-Ari, three openly racist former Otzma Yehudit politicians banned from running by the High Court in 2019.

Gopstein leads the racist Lehava organization, which opposes interfaith and inter-ethnic interaction, relationships and marriages. Marzel led extremist rabbi Meir Kahane’s Kach party after its founder’s 1990 murder, and has long been identified with the faction’s goal of forcibly cleansing the country of Arabs.

Ben-Ari, a former MK, was warned in August that the state prosecution was mulling charging him for promoting racism toward Arabs for a period of three and a half years starting in late 2017.

In November, Ben-Ari and Marzel launched an abortive political party that took even more extreme positions than Otzma Yehudit, which they helped found. They criticized Ben Gvir, roundly denounced as a far-right demagogue, as “ideologically flexible.”

Israeli soccer coach Grant to helm Zambia national team

Ghana's midfielder Andre Ayew (L) speaks to coach Avram Grant during the 2015 African Cup of Nations final soccer match between Ivory Coast and Ghana in Bata on February 8, 2015. (AFP/CARL DE SOUZA)
Ghana's midfielder Andre Ayew (L) speaks to coach Avram Grant during the 2015 African Cup of Nations final soccer match between Ivory Coast and Ghana in Bata on February 8, 2015. (AFP/CARL DE SOUZA)

Israeli soccer coach Avram Grant, who found success at home and in Britain before falling off the sports map, has signed on with the Zambian national squad, the Football Association of Zambia announces.

Grant 67, arrived in the African country, according to Hebrew media reports.

He beat out dozens of other candidates, including some who coached the team in the past, Israel’s Channel 12 news reports.

Grant was Israel’s national soccer team soccer coach in 2002-2006 and took Maccabi Haifa Maccabi Tel Aviv to national league championships twice each.

He later took UK premier league soccer team Chelsea to the Premier League final, and worked with UK teams Portsmouth and West Ham.

His last coaching gig was in 2018 with Indian soccer team NorthEast United, after three years coaching Ghana’s national team, which he took to the finals of the African Nations cup before losing to Ivory Coast in 2015.

He was recently accused of sexually harassing several women, which FIFA has promised to investigate.

Iran claims to bust four alleged Mossad ‘terror’ rings

In this photo taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside Iran, Iranians protests the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was detained by the morality police while in custody, in Tehran, October 27, 2022. (Middle East Images/AP)
In this photo taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside Iran, Iranians protests the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was detained by the morality police while in custody, in Tehran, October 27, 2022. (Middle East Images/AP)

Iran says it has arrested four alleged cells working for Israel’s Mossad spy agency that had planned to use months-long street protests as cover to carry out “hybrid terrorist operations,” according to state run media.

A statement from Iran’s intelligence ministry carried by the Islamic Republic News Agency claims the teams were nabbed before they could carry out their plans.

It says all members of the four cells were arrested, without detailing the exact number of people allegedly implicated in the plot. It also claims information about an alleged Mossad hitman in a European country will be published later.

Nationwide protests erupted in September after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was detained by the country’s morality police for allegedly violating Iran’s strict dress code for women.

The protests have since transformed into calls for the overthrow of Iran’s ruling clerics, presenting one of the most durable challenges to the theocracy since the chaotic years following the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The regime has regularly blamed Israel and the United States for fomenting the widely popular protests, without offering evidence.

Germany asks EU to clamp down on ‘capricious’ Twitter moves

Germany is appealing to the European Union to consider regulating “abrupt” and “arbitrary” decisions at Twitter since Elon Musk’s takeover.

Economy ministry state secretary Sven Giegold of the Green party cites his “great concern” about policy zigzagging at the troubled social media platform in a letter to the EU Commission.

In the letter, which Giegold also posts on Twitter, he says the Commission should carry out the necessary reviews as soon as possible to declare Twitter a “gatekeeper” under the bloc’s new Digital Markets Act.

The designation subjects companies with a dominant market position to particular scrutiny.

He also calls for the complementary Digital Services Act, which comes into force in February 2024, to prevent “capricious deplatforming” of users.

The DSA was designed to combat online hate speech, disinformation and piracy in Europe at a time when much of the internet content seen by EU citizens is controlled by US-based companies.

Saudi Arabia, Turkey join outcry against Taliban barring women from university

Turkey and Saudi Arabia become the latest Muslim-majority countries to condemn a decision by Taliban authorities to bar women from universities, while about two dozen women have stage a protest in the streets of Kabul.

The country’s Taliban rulers earlier this week ordered women nationwide to stop attending private and public universities effective immediately and until further notice.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says the ban is “neither Islamic nor humane.”

Speaking at a joint news conference with his Yemeni counterpart, Cavusoglu calls on the Taliban to reverse their decision.

“What harm is there in women’s education? What harm does it to do Afghanistan?” Cavusoglu says. “Is there an Islamic explanation? On the contrary, our religion, Islam, is not against education, on the contrary, it encourages education and science.”

Saudi Arabia, which until 2019 enforced sweeping restrictions on women’s travel, employment and other crucial aspects of their daily life including driving, also urges the Taliban to change course.

The Saudi foreign ministry expresses “astonishment and regret” at Afghan women being denied a university education.

Previously, Qatar, which has engaged with the Taliban authorities, also condemned the decision.

In the capital of Kabul, about two dozen women march in the streets, chanting in Dari for freedom and equality. “All or none. Don’t be afraid. We are together,” they cry out.

In video obtained by The Associated Press, one woman says Taliban security forces used violence to disperse the group.

“The girls were beaten and whipped,” she says. “They also brought military women with them, whipping the girls. We ran away, some girls were arrested. I don’t know what will happen.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Higher Education says in a tweet that a news conference will be held this week to explain the move.

Basic Law changes demanded by Smotrich and Deri okayed for final votes Monday

Basic Law changes demanded by the leaders of Religious Zionism and Shas have been approved for their final Knesset floor readings, which will take place on Monday. The reforms must pass two readings to become law, which they are widely expected to do after already passing a first reading.

Presented as preconditions for swearing in the government under incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the legislative changes will enable appointing Religious Zionism’s Bezalel Smotrich as an independent Defense Ministry minister in charge of West Bank settlement and Palestinian construction.

It would also pave the way for Shas’s Aryeh Deri to lead the Interior and Health ministries, despite his recent suspended sentence for tax fraud.

A second bill, demanded by incoming national security minister Itamar Ben Gvir to expand political control over Israel’s police, is still being debated by a special committee, in anticipation of being approved for its second and third floor readings.

read more: