","author":[{"@type":"Person","@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/writers/alexander-fulbright/#webpage","name":"Alexander Fulbright"}],"image":{"@type":"ImageObject","@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/idf-destroys-additional-cross-border-hezbollah-tunnels-from-lebanon/#primaryimage","url":"https://static.timesofisrael.com/www/uploads/2018/12/F181203MA03.jpg"},"publisher":{"@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/#organization"},"mainEntityOfPage":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/idf-destroys-additional-cross-border-hezbollah-tunnels-from-lebanon/#webpage","dateModified":"2018-12-27T00:00:00+00:00"},{"@type":"BlogPosting","headline":"EU condemns Israel’s advancement of over 2,000 settlement homes","datePublished":"2018-12-27T14:23:14+00:00","articleBody":"The European Union condemns Israel's approval this week of plans to advance construction of over 2,000 new homes in West Bank settlements.\r\n\r\n\"The European Union's position on Israeli settlement construction and related activities is clear and remains unchanged: all settlement activity is illegal under international law and it undermines the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace,\" the bloc's foreign policy arm says in a statement.","author":[{"@type":"Person","@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/writers/alexander-fulbright/#webpage","name":"Alexander Fulbright"}],"image":{"@type":"ImageObject","@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/eu-condemns-israels-advancement-of-over-2000-settlement-homes/#primaryimage","url":"https://static.timesofisrael.com/www/uploads/2018/12/F181203MA03.jpg"},"publisher":{"@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/#organization"},"mainEntityOfPage":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/eu-condemns-israels-advancement-of-over-2000-settlement-homes/#webpage","dateModified":"2018-12-27T00:00:00+00:00"},{"@type":"BlogPosting","headline":"Lapid welcomes ex-IDF chief Gantz’s establishment of new party","datePublished":"2018-12-27T14:44:19+00:00","articleBody":"Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid welcomes former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz's establishment of a new political party ahead of Knesset elections in April.\r\n\r\n\"The State of Israel and Israeli politics needs good people in the Knesset. Welcome and good luck,\" Lapid writes on Twitter.\r\n\r\nGantz's registration earlier today of the Israel Resilience Party ended growing speculation about his political plans in the wake of the ruling coalition's decision to dissolve the government and call early elections.\r\n\r\nPrior to the formal establishment of the Israel Resilience Party, some polls predicted a Lapid-led Yesh Atid that included Gantz would come closest to unseating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud in elections.","author":[{"@type":"Person","@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/writers/alexander-fulbright/#webpage","name":"Alexander Fulbright"}],"image":{"@type":"ImageObject","@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/lapid-welcomes-ex-idf-chief-gantzs-establishment-of-new-party/#primaryimage","url":"https://static.timesofisrael.com/www/uploads/2018/12/F181203MA03.jpg"},"publisher":{"@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/#organization"},"mainEntityOfPage":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/lapid-welcomes-ex-idf-chief-gantzs-establishment-of-new-party/#webpage","dateModified":"2018-12-27T00:00:00+00:00"},{"@type":"BlogPosting","headline":"Arab Israeli who glided into Syria convicted for joining Islamic State","datePublished":"2018-12-27T15:07:52+00:00","articleBody":"An Arab Israeli man is convicted for entering Syria using a hang glider to join the Islamic State jihadist group.\r\n\r\nNidal Salah, a 26-year-old resident of the central town of Jaljulia, is sentenced to 43 months in prison by the Central District Court as part of a plea deal.\r\n\r\nSalah is convicted on charges of contacting a foreign agent, illegally leaving the country, membership in a terror organization, sending information to an enemy and other offenses.\r\n\r\nAfter gliding into Syria in October 2015, Salah was arrested and \"brutally interrogated\" by IS operatives, who forced him to fork over information about Israel, according to the court.\r\n\r\nHe was later released and officially joined IS, for whom he worked in a factory making surveillance and attack drones. The court said he also took part in fighting for the jihadist group and was asked to recruit more Arab Israelis to its ranks.\r\n\r\nSalah was later taken capture by the Syrian government during a battle but was able to flee and be smuggled into Turkey this May. He returned to Israel in June on a flight from Turkey and upon landing was arrested.\r\n\r\nThe court says it agreed to a plea deal in light of Salah's confession, expression of remorse and the \"exceptional circumstances\" of his captivity by IS.","author":[{"@type":"Person","@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/writers/alexander-fulbright/#webpage","name":"Alexander Fulbright"}],"image":{"@type":"ImageObject","@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/arab-israeli-who-glided-into-syria-convicted-for-joining-islamic-state/#primaryimage","url":"https://static.timesofisrael.com/www/uploads/2018/12/F181203MA03.jpg"},"publisher":{"@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/#organization"},"mainEntityOfPage":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/arab-israeli-who-glided-into-syria-convicted-for-joining-islamic-state/#webpage","dateModified":"2018-12-27T00:00:00+00:00"},{"@type":"BlogPosting","headline":"Netanyahu ally says PM not sweating Gantz’s entry to politics","datePublished":"2018-12-27T15:52:44+00:00","articleBody":"A political ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the ruling Likud party does not believe former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz's new party will unseat in April elections.\r\n\r\n\"We're not worried about Benny Gantz. He's not even on Netanyahu's radar and according to the polls [Likud] gets double the seats he does,\" Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi tells Israel Radio.\r\n\r\nGantz earlier today registered a new party named Israel Resilience, formally marking his entry to politics.\r\n\r\n[caption id=\"attachment_1784366\" align=\"alignnone\" width=\"600\"]\"\" Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi at the Knesset on July 9, 2017 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)[/caption]","author":[{"@type":"Person","@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/writers/alexander-fulbright/#webpage","name":"Alexander Fulbright"}],"image":{"@type":"ImageObject","@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/netanyahu-ally-says-pm-not-sweating-gantzs-entry-to-politics/#primaryimage","url":"https://static.timesofisrael.com/www/uploads/2018/12/F181203MA03.jpg"},"publisher":{"@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/#organization"},"mainEntityOfPage":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/netanyahu-ally-says-pm-not-sweating-gantzs-entry-to-politics/#webpage","dateModified":"2018-12-27T00:00:00+00:00"},{"@type":"BlogPosting","headline":"Mother of soldier whose body is held by Hamas hits out at Gantz","datePublished":"2018-12-27T16:29:29+00:00","articleBody":"The mother of an Israeli soldier whose body was captured by Hamas in the 2014 Gaza war hits out at former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz after his official entry to politics.\r\n\r\nGantz, who commanded the IDF during the 2014 military campaign, earlier today registered his party Israel Resilience ahead of early Knesset elections in April.\r\n\r\n\"I heard today about a new party, Israel Resilience. I ask you, Benny Gantz, what resilience are you talking about,\" Zehava Shaul says at a press conference.\r\n\r\nShaul is speaking on the 25th birthday of her son Oron Shaul, a Golani Brigade infantryman who was killed in the 2014 war and whose remains are being held by Hamas.\r\n\r\n\"You led Protective Edge -- what did we get out of this,\" Zehava Shaul says to Gantz, referring to the war by its name in Israel.\r\n\r\nShe also criticizes Moshe Ya'alon, who was defense minister during the war and announced this week he would set up his own party for the upcoming elections.\r\n\r\nhttps://twitter.com/giladsho/status/1078315591759470592","author":[{"@type":"Person","@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/writers/alexander-fulbright/#webpage","name":"Alexander Fulbright"}],"image":{"@type":"ImageObject","@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/mother-of-soldier-whose-body-is-held-by-hamas-hits-out-at-gantz/#primaryimage","url":"https://static.timesofisrael.com/www/uploads/2018/12/F181203MA03.jpg"},"publisher":{"@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/#organization"},"mainEntityOfPage":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/mother-of-soldier-whose-body-is-held-by-hamas-hits-out-at-gantz/#webpage","dateModified":"2018-12-27T00:00:00+00:00"},{"@type":"BlogPosting","headline":"Netanyahu’s son Yair to join PM for inauguration of Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro","datePublished":"2018-12-27T17:13:36+00:00","articleBody":"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's eldest son will join the premier on his trip to Brazil for the presidential inauguration of Jair Bolsonaro.\r\n\r\nThe family puts out a statement stressing it will cover all of Yair Netanyahu's expenses.\r\n\r\nThe prime minister will meet with Bolsonaro during his six-day visit to Brazil, the first ever by an Israeli premier.\r\n\r\nWhile in Brazil, he is also expected to meet with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, and local Jewish leaders, Netanyahu's office says.\r\n\r\n[caption id=\"attachment_1977354\" align=\"alignnone\" width=\"600\"]\"\" Yair Netanyahu, son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, seen in Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court on December 10, 2018. (Flash90)[/caption]","author":[{"@type":"Person","@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/writers/alexander-fulbright/#webpage","name":"Alexander Fulbright"}],"image":{"@type":"ImageObject","@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/netanyahus-son-yair-to-join-pm-for-inauguration-of-brazils-jair-bolsonaro/#primaryimage","url":"https://static.timesofisrael.com/www/uploads/2018/12/F181203MA03.jpg"},"publisher":{"@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/#organization"},"mainEntityOfPage":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/netanyahus-son-yair-to-join-pm-for-inauguration-of-brazils-jair-bolsonaro/#webpage","dateModified":"2018-12-27T00:00:00+00:00"},{"@type":"BlogPosting","headline":"Mother of 3 shot to death in Ramle","datePublished":"2018-12-27T18:11:02+00:00","articleBody":"A 29-year-old mother of three is shot to death in the central Israeli city of Ramle.\r\n\r\nThe victim is identified as Shadia Musalti, a member of the city's Arab community.\r\n\r\nAccording to investigators, an as-yet unidentified man walked up to Musalti on Hannah Szenes Street in the mixed town and shot her in the head.\r\n\r\nThe killer fled the scene.\r\n\r\nMusalti was critically wounded in the attack, and was rushed to Assaf Harofe hospital in nearby Rishon Lezion. Doctors at the hospital's trauma center were unable to save her.","author":[{"@type":"Person","@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/writers/alexander-fulbright/#webpage","name":"Alexander Fulbright"}],"image":{"@type":"ImageObject","@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/mother-of-3-shot-to-death-in-ramle/#primaryimage","url":"https://static.timesofisrael.com/www/uploads/2018/12/F181203MA03.jpg"},"publisher":{"@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/#organization"},"mainEntityOfPage":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/mother-of-3-shot-to-death-in-ramle/#webpage","dateModified":"2018-12-27T00:00:00+00:00"},{"@type":"BlogPosting","headline":"As attorney general weighs indicting Netanyahu, grave of his father defaced","datePublished":"2018-12-27T18:34:10+00:00","articleBody":"The grave of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit's father was vandalized earlier this month, reports say Thursday, amid threats and accusations leveled by government officials against Mandelblit, who is due to decide whether to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in three corruption cases.\r\n\r\nMandelblit discovered the vandalism ten days ago, when he visited his mother's grave on the anniversary of her death, Hadashot and Channel 10 news both report.\r\n\r\nMandelblit immediately updated police that the tombstone of his father, Baruch, had been smashed with a heavy tool such as a hammer, the reports say. They add that no other tombstones were damaged, indicating that the unknown perpetrators had been specifically targeting the specific grave.\r\n\r\nNetanyahu, who has railed against Mandelblit in recent weeks as he began reviewing the evidence provided by police in the criminal cases against him, responds immediately to the reports, condemning the vandalism as \"a shocking act that should be unequivocally condemned.\"\r\n\r\nThe premier says he has asked Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan to immediately investigate who damaged the grave.\r\n\r\nPolice have reportedly launched an investigation into the incident.\r\n\r\n-- Michael Bachner","author":[{"@type":"Person","@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/writers/alexander-fulbright/#webpage","name":"Alexander Fulbright"}],"image":{"@type":"ImageObject","@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/as-attorney-general-weighs-indicting-netanyahu-grave-of-his-father-defaced/#primaryimage","url":"https://static.timesofisrael.com/www/uploads/2018/12/F181203MA03.jpg"},"publisher":{"@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/#organization"},"mainEntityOfPage":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/as-attorney-general-weighs-indicting-netanyahu-grave-of-his-father-defaced/#webpage","dateModified":"2018-12-27T00:00:00+00:00"},{"@type":"BlogPosting","headline":"Rivlin, Livni condemn vandalism of grave of AG’s father","datePublished":"2018-12-27T18:52:40+00:00","articleBody":"President Reuven Rivlin condemns the defacement of the grave of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit's father.\r\n\r\n\"The desecration of the grave of the attorney general's father is a foolish act that arouses disgust,\" Rivlin writes on Twitter.\r\n\r\nOpposition leader Tzipi Livni also condemns the vandalism.\r\n\r\n\"There is a need for leadership that unconditionally defends law enforcement agencies in Israel and restores the public's trust in them,\" tweets Livni, an MK from the Zionist Union faction.\r\n\r\nThe incident comes as Mandelblit considers whether to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a series of corruption probes.","author":[{"@type":"Person","@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/writers/alexander-fulbright/#webpage","name":"Alexander Fulbright"}],"image":{"@type":"ImageObject","@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/rivlin-livni-condemn-vandalism-of-grave-of-ags-father/#primaryimage","url":"https://static.timesofisrael.com/www/uploads/2018/12/F181203MA03.jpg"},"publisher":{"@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/#organization"},"mainEntityOfPage":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/rivlin-livni-condemn-vandalism-of-grave-of-ags-father/#webpage","dateModified":"2018-12-27T00:00:00+00:00"},{"@type":"BlogPosting","headline":"Gabbay blames vandalism of grave of AG’s father on Netanyahu","datePublished":"2018-12-27T19:01:28+00:00","articleBody":"Zionist Union party leader Avi Gabbay reacts to the desecration of the grave of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit's father by blaming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.\r\n\r\n\"When you encourage violence against the left and thuggishly threaten the attorney general, it's no wonder that people take the law into their own hands,\" he tweets.\r\n\r\n\"We saw where that led in 1995,\" Gabbay writes, referring to the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, which some have blamed on incitement by Netanyahu. \"The man is the same man, and the insinuations are the same insinuations.\"","author":[{"@type":"Person","@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/writers/alexander-fulbright/#webpage","name":"Alexander Fulbright"}],"image":{"@type":"ImageObject","@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/gabbay-blames-vandalism-of-grave-of-ags-father-on-netanyahu/#primaryimage","url":"https://static.timesofisrael.com/www/uploads/2018/12/F181203MA03.jpg"},"publisher":{"@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/#organization"},"mainEntityOfPage":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/gabbay-blames-vandalism-of-grave-of-ags-father-on-netanyahu/#webpage","dateModified":"2018-12-27T00:00:00+00:00"},{"@type":"BlogPosting","headline":"Livni said interested in joining forces with Gantz and Ya’alon for elections","datePublished":"2018-12-27T19:22:18+00:00","articleBody":"Opposition leader Tzipi Livni is interested in joining a prospective electoral alliance between former chiefs of staff Benny Gantz and Moshe Ya'alon, Channel 10 news reports.\r\n\r\nHowever, Gantz and Ya'alon are wary of joining forces with Livni due to her association with the Israeli left, according to the network.\r\n\r\nLivni is the head of Hatnua, which alongside the Labor Party makes up the Zionist Union faction.\r\n\r\nHer reported interest in teaming up with Gantz and Ya'alon comes as the two are said to be in talks to form a joint electoral list ahead of early Knesset elections in April.\r\n\r\nEarlier today, Gantz registered his new party Israel Resilience, formally marking his entry to politics. Ya'alon, a former defense minister from Likud, announced earlier this week he would set up his own party.","author":[{"@type":"Person","@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/writers/alexander-fulbright/#webpage","name":"Alexander Fulbright"}],"image":{"@type":"ImageObject","@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/livni-said-interested-in-joining-forces-with-gantz-and-yaalon-for-elections/#primaryimage","url":"https://static.timesofisrael.com/www/uploads/2018/12/F181203MA03.jpg"},"publisher":{"@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/#organization"},"mainEntityOfPage":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/livni-said-interested-in-joining-forces-with-gantz-and-yaalon-for-elections/#webpage","dateModified":"2018-12-27T00:00:00+00:00"},{"@type":"BlogPosting","headline":"Abbas spokesman condemns Israel’s advancement of new settlement homes","datePublished":"2018-12-27T19:23:13+00:00","articleBody":"Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas\u2019s spokesman condemns Israel\u2019s advancement of plans for over 2,000 new housing units in West Bank settlements.\r\n\r\nEarlier this week, the Defense Ministry committee responsible for authorizing settlement construction advanced plans for nearly 2,200 homes in West Bank settlements.\r\n\r\n\u201cAll settlement building in Palestinian lands is illegitimate, according to international resolutions especially including UN Security Council resolution 2334,\u201d Nabil Abu Rudeinah is quoted saying by the PA's official Wafa news agency.\r\n\r\nUN Security Council resolution 2334 says settlements have \u201cno legal validity\u201d and \u201cconstitute a flagrant violation of international law and a major obstacle to the achievement... of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.\u201d\r\n\r\nAbu Rudeinah adds settlements \u201cin all Palestinian lands\u2026 will vanish,\u201d as they did in they Gaza Strip.\r\n\r\nIsrael withdrew from all settlements in Gaza in 2005.\r\n\r\n-- Adam Rasgon","author":[{"@type":"Person","@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/writers/alexander-fulbright/#webpage","name":"Alexander Fulbright"}],"image":{"@type":"ImageObject","@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/abbas-spokesman-condemns-israels-advancement-of-new-settlement-homes/#primaryimage","url":"https://static.timesofisrael.com/www/uploads/2018/12/F181203MA03.jpg"},"publisher":{"@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/#organization"},"mainEntityOfPage":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/abbas-spokesman-condemns-israels-advancement-of-new-settlement-homes/#webpage","dateModified":"2018-12-27T00:00:00+00:00"}]},[{"@type":"Person","@id":"https://www.timesofisrael.com/writers/alexander-fulbright/#webpage","name":"Alexander Fulbright"}]]}
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Live updates (closed)

Opposition blames Netanyahu for vandalism of grave of attorney general’s father

Zionist Union head Avi Gabbay accuses PM of encouraging violence, says incitement could lead to political assassination similar to Rabin’s

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit attends a State Control committee meeting in the Knesset on December 3, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit attends a State Control committee meeting in the Knesset on December 3, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

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

Satellite photos said to show damage from reported Israeli strike in Syria

Satellite photos released by an Israeli firm show damage to purported Iranian weapons storage facilities in Syria that were targeted in airstrikes attributed to Israel.

The images from ImageSat International show destroyed buildings at a base in Damascus of the Syrian army’s 4th division, which reportedly housed Iranian-made Fajr-5 rockets.

ImageSat also publishes photos showing no visible damage in other areas of Syria reportedly targeted in Tuesday’s aerial raids.

Though Israel has not officially acknowledged being behind the strikes, a senior Israeli official told The Associated Press Wednesday that the Israeli Air Force had carried out the attacks, which he said primarily targeted facilities used by Iran to send weapons to Hezbollah, the Shiite terror group in Lebanon it backs.

Satellite photos released by Israeli firm ImageSat International on December 27, 2018, show damaged facilities in Syria purportedly used by Iran that were targeted in an airstrike attributed to Israel. (ImageSat International)

UAE to reopen embassy in Syria, 7 years after severing ties

DAMASCUS, Syria — The United Arab Emirates will reopen its embassy in Damascus Thursday, an official says, seven years after it severed ties with Syria over the violent repression that triggered the war.

An official at the information ministry invites journalists “to cover the reopening of the Emirati embassy in Damascus today.”

The move is seen as another step in efforts to bring the regime of President Bashar Assad back into the Arab fold after years of diplomatic isolation.

A visit to Damascus by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir earlier this month had been interpreted by some observers as a sign of that trend.

Rumors of the Emirati embassy reopening have circulated in recent days as renovation work was spotted getting underway at the building.

The UAE broke ties with Syria in February 2012, as the repression of nationwide protests demanding regime change was escalating into a war which has now killed more than 360,000 people.

— AFP

Israel publishes more settlement home tenders, bringing 2018 total to highest since 2002

Israel publishes tenders for 621 settlement homes in the West Bank a day after the Defense Ministry finished advancing plans for 2,191 other homes.

The publishing of tenders is an additional stage required for projects located in larger settlements where they are marketed by the Housing Ministry to private contractors, even though these homes have already received what is considered “final approval for construction.”

The tenders published are for homes in the Ma’ale Adumim, Beit Aryeh, Beitar Illit and Karnei Shomron settlements.

In 2018, a total of 3,788 tenders were published, roughly 600 more than the previous year and the highest amount since 2002.

Responding to the move, the Peace Now settlement watchdog says in a statement that “[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is willing to sell the interests of the Israeli public just to give more gifts to the settlers and scrape together more votes for his political survival.”

— Jacob Magid

Rivlin to church leaders: Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem won’t harm religious freedom

President Reuven Rivlin hosts local Christian religious leaders at his official residence in Jerusalem for a New Year’s reception.

“Our sovereignty over Jerusalem will never compromise the freedom of worship and religion of all peoples of faith in Jerusalem and in all of Israel,” he says, according to a statement from his office.

Rivlin also addresses proposed legislation that would allow the state to confiscate church lands sold to private investors.

The State of Israel has no intention of harming the property rights of the churches or their ability to realize their assets to support their activities. We will never do that,” he says.

The bill has been strongly opposed by church leaders and the government last month delayed a discussion on it.

President Reuven Rivlin, seated third-to-right in the front row, poses for a picture with local church leaders at his official residence in Jerusalem on December 27, 2018, during a New Year’s reception. (Mark Neiman/GPO)

Ex-IDF chief registers new political party ahead of early elections

Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz registers his new political party, officially marking his entry to politics ahead of early Knesset elections in April 2019.

The Hebrew name for the party is Hosen Leyisrael and will be called Israel Resilience Party in English.

A number of recent polls have put a Gantz-led party in second place behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, albeit well behind in projected seat total. The surveys have also predicted that the opposition Zionist Union or Yesh Atid parties could prevent a challenge to Likud if Gantz were to join one of them.

Gantz, who served as chief of staff from 2011 to 2015, has largely maintained radio silence on his political views.

Saudi king orders cabinet shakeup after Khashoggi’s killing

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has issued a wide-ranging overhaul of top government posts, including naming a new foreign minister, following international fallout from the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi nearly three months ago.

Adel al-Jubeir, the soft-spoken foreign minister since 2015, is replaced by Ibrahim al-Assaf, who was formerly a finance minister. Al-Jubeir is appointed to the post of minister of state for foreign affairs.

Al-Assaf had been serving as minister of state, and has held a seat on the boards of oil-giant Saudi Aramaco and the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund.

The changes, which impact several key ministries, come as the king and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, were looking to announce a major reshuffle following Khashoggi’s killing by Saudi agents in Istanbul.

— AP

Saudi Arabia’s then-finance minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf speaks at the opening of The annual joint meetings of Arab financial institutions in Rabat, Morocco, on April 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)

IDF destroys additional cross-border Hezbollah tunnels from Lebanon

The Israel Defense Forces announces it has destroyed a number of cross-border attack tunnels dug by Hezbollah from the southern Lebanon village of Kafr Kila.

The army located the subterranean passages earlier this month after launching “Operation Northern Shield” to track down tunnels passing under the border. It has said Hezbollah intended to use the tunnels to ferry fighters into Israel as part of an opening salvo in a future war.

“The uncovering and destruction of the tunnels has brought significant harm to Hezbollah’s ability to realize its plans,” the IDF says in a statement.

The army says the tunnels were destroyed a few days ago using “engineering techniques that included a variety of means,” without providing further details.

While operating on the tunnels, the IDF says, it spotted the fluids it had used to seal the tunnels coming out of civilian structures in Lebanon where the opening of the passages were located.

“This fact points to Hezbollah’s use of civilian structures in the heart of built-up areas in southern Lebanon, endangering its citizens as human shields in grave violation of [UN Security Council] Resolution 1701,” the army says, referring to the UN measure ending the 2006 Lebanon War.

The IDF reiterates it holds the Lebanese government responsible for the tunnel-digging and says it will continue to work with regional council heads and local residents as necessary.

“IDF operations to expose and neutralize the tunnels as part of Operation Northern Shield will continue as planned,” the army says.

EU condemns Israel’s advancement of over 2,000 settlement homes

The European Union condemns Israel’s approval this week of plans to advance construction of over 2,000 new homes in West Bank settlements.

“The European Union’s position on Israeli settlement construction and related activities is clear and remains unchanged: all settlement activity is illegal under international law and it undermines the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace,” the bloc’s foreign policy arm says in a statement.

Lapid welcomes ex-IDF chief Gantz’s establishment of new party

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid welcomes former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz’s establishment of a new political party ahead of Knesset elections in April.

“The State of Israel and Israeli politics needs good people in the Knesset. Welcome and good luck,” Lapid writes on Twitter.

Gantz’s registration earlier today of the Israel Resilience Party ended growing speculation about his political plans in the wake of the ruling coalition’s decision to dissolve the government and call early elections.

Prior to the formal establishment of the Israel Resilience Party, some polls predicted a Lapid-led Yesh Atid that included Gantz would come closest to unseating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud in elections.

Arab Israeli who glided into Syria convicted for joining Islamic State

An Arab Israeli man is convicted for entering Syria using a hang glider to join the Islamic State jihadist group.

Nidal Salah, a 26-year-old resident of the central town of Jaljulia, is sentenced to 43 months in prison by the Central District Court as part of a plea deal.

Salah is convicted on charges of contacting a foreign agent, illegally leaving the country, membership in a terror organization, sending information to an enemy and other offenses.

After gliding into Syria in October 2015, Salah was arrested and “brutally interrogated” by IS operatives, who forced him to fork over information about Israel, according to the court.

He was later released and officially joined IS, for whom he worked in a factory making surveillance and attack drones. The court said he also took part in fighting for the jihadist group and was asked to recruit more Arab Israelis to its ranks.

Salah was later taken capture by the Syrian government during a battle but was able to flee and be smuggled into Turkey this May. He returned to Israel in June on a flight from Turkey and upon landing was arrested.

The court says it agreed to a plea deal in light of Salah’s confession, expression of remorse and the “exceptional circumstances” of his captivity by IS.

Netanyahu ally says PM not sweating Gantz’s entry to politics

A political ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the ruling Likud party does not believe former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz’s new party will unseat in April elections.

“We’re not worried about Benny Gantz. He’s not even on Netanyahu’s radar and according to the polls [Likud] gets double the seats he does,” Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi tells Israel Radio.

Gantz earlier today registered a new party named Israel Resilience, formally marking his entry to politics.

Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi at the Knesset on July 9, 2017 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Mother of soldier whose body is held by Hamas hits out at Gantz

The mother of an Israeli soldier whose body was captured by Hamas in the 2014 Gaza war hits out at former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz after his official entry to politics.

Gantz, who commanded the IDF during the 2014 military campaign, earlier today registered his party Israel Resilience ahead of early Knesset elections in April.

“I heard today about a new party, Israel Resilience. I ask you, Benny Gantz, what resilience are you talking about,” Zehava Shaul says at a press conference.

Shaul is speaking on the 25th birthday of her son Oron Shaul, a Golani Brigade infantryman who was killed in the 2014 war and whose remains are being held by Hamas.

“You led Protective Edge — what did we get out of this,” Zehava Shaul says to Gantz, referring to the war by its name in Israel.

She also criticizes Moshe Ya’alon, who was defense minister during the war and announced this week he would set up his own party for the upcoming elections.

Netanyahu’s son Yair to join PM for inauguration of Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s eldest son will join the premier on his trip to Brazil for the presidential inauguration of Jair Bolsonaro.

The family puts out a statement stressing it will cover all of Yair Netanyahu’s expenses.

The prime minister will meet with Bolsonaro during his six-day visit to Brazil, the first ever by an Israeli premier.

While in Brazil, he is also expected to meet with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, and local Jewish leaders, Netanyahu’s office says.

Yair Netanyahu, son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, seen in Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on December 10, 2018. (Flash90)

Mother of 3 shot to death in Ramle

A 29-year-old mother of three is shot to death in the central Israeli city of Ramle.

The victim is identified as Shadia Musalti, a member of the city’s Arab community.

According to investigators, an as-yet unidentified man walked up to Musalti on Hannah Szenes Street in the mixed town and shot her in the head.

The killer fled the scene.

Musalti was critically wounded in the attack, and was rushed to Assaf Harofe hospital in nearby Rishon Lezion. Doctors at the hospital’s trauma center were unable to save her.

As attorney general weighs indicting Netanyahu, grave of his father defaced

The grave of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s father was vandalized earlier this month, reports say Thursday, amid threats and accusations leveled by government officials against Mandelblit, who is due to decide whether to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in three corruption cases.

Mandelblit discovered the vandalism ten days ago, when he visited his mother’s grave on the anniversary of her death, Hadashot and Channel 10 news both report.

Mandelblit immediately updated police that the tombstone of his father, Baruch, had been smashed with a heavy tool such as a hammer, the reports say. They add that no other tombstones were damaged, indicating that the unknown perpetrators had been specifically targeting the specific grave.

Netanyahu, who has railed against Mandelblit in recent weeks as he began reviewing the evidence provided by police in the criminal cases against him, responds immediately to the reports, condemning the vandalism as “a shocking act that should be unequivocally condemned.”

The premier says he has asked Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan to immediately investigate who damaged the grave.

Police have reportedly launched an investigation into the incident.

— Michael Bachner

Rivlin, Livni condemn vandalism of grave of AG’s father

President Reuven Rivlin condemns the defacement of the grave of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s father.

“The desecration of the grave of the attorney general’s father is a foolish act that arouses disgust,” Rivlin writes on Twitter.

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni also condemns the vandalism.

“There is a need for leadership that unconditionally defends law enforcement agencies in Israel and restores the public’s trust in them,” tweets Livni, an MK from the Zionist Union faction.

The incident comes as Mandelblit considers whether to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a series of corruption probes.

Gabbay blames vandalism of grave of AG’s father on Netanyahu

Zionist Union party leader Avi Gabbay reacts to the desecration of the grave of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s father by blaming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“When you encourage violence against the left and thuggishly threaten the attorney general, it’s no wonder that people take the law into their own hands,” he tweets.

“We saw where that led in 1995,” Gabbay writes, referring to the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, which some have blamed on incitement by Netanyahu. “The man is the same man, and the insinuations are the same insinuations.”

Livni said interested in joining forces with Gantz and Ya’alon for elections

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni is interested in joining a prospective electoral alliance between former chiefs of staff Benny Gantz and Moshe Ya’alon, Channel 10 news reports.

However, Gantz and Ya’alon are wary of joining forces with Livni due to her association with the Israeli left, according to the network.

Livni is the head of Hatnua, which alongside the Labor Party makes up the Zionist Union faction.

Her reported interest in teaming up with Gantz and Ya’alon comes as the two are said to be in talks to form a joint electoral list ahead of early Knesset elections in April.

Earlier today, Gantz registered his new party Israel Resilience, formally marking his entry to politics. Ya’alon, a former defense minister from Likud, announced earlier this week he would set up his own party.

Abbas spokesman condemns Israel’s advancement of new settlement homes

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesman condemns Israel’s advancement of plans for over 2,000 new housing units in West Bank settlements.

Earlier this week, the Defense Ministry committee responsible for authorizing settlement construction advanced plans for nearly 2,200 homes in West Bank settlements.

“All settlement building in Palestinian lands is illegitimate, according to international resolutions especially including UN Security Council resolution 2334,” Nabil Abu Rudeinah is quoted saying by the PA’s official Wafa news agency.

UN Security Council resolution 2334 says settlements have “no legal validity” and “constitute a flagrant violation of international law and a major obstacle to the achievement… of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”

Abu Rudeinah adds settlements “in all Palestinian lands… will vanish,” as they did in they Gaza Strip.

Israel withdrew from all settlements in Gaza in 2005.

— Adam Rasgon

Timerman death brings Nisman killing back to fore

Some in Argentina are not exactly mourning the death of Hector Timerman, given his role in the alleged Iran terror cover-up and the still unsolved death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman.

After one person tweets that Timerman was killed, Javier Navia, an editor at the La Nacion newspaper asks “would you say that about Nisman?” and others also note that Timerman’s government tried to portray Nisman’s death as a suicide.

“They killed Nisman. Hector Timerman died and will only be remembered for covering up an attack and betraying his homeland,” another twitter user writes.

Another Argentine journalist, Alejo Schapire, tweets that “negotiating the immunity of those who killed your own [people]. That has a name.”

Javier Timerman, Hector Timerman’s brother, tweets a heartfelt goodbye. “Soul brother. Thank you for everything you did for me. I admire you so much. I miss you more than you can imagine.”

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