The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s developments as they unfolded.
Ministers launch ‘intensive’ effort to deport 40,000 migrants
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri say a “historic” and “intensive” effort to deport tens of thousands of illegal migrants will begin this week.
In a joint statement, the ministers say that in the coming days, migrants — most of whom are from Eritrea and Sudan — will be forced to choose between voluntary emigration to a third country or prison.
On Wednesday, a special cabinet meeting will convene to approve the plan, according to the ministers.
The Population and Immigration Authority will soon notify the migrants of their options, say the ministers.
Iran unrest ‘start of a big movement’ — Nobel Peace Prize-winner Ebadi
The unrest in Iran is just “the beginning of a big movement” that could be more widespread than the demonstrations of 2009, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi says in an interview Sunday.
“I think the protests are not going to end soon. It seems to me that we are witnessing the beginning of a big protest movement that can go well beyond the Green wave of 2009. It would not surprise me if it becomes something bigger,” says Ebadi to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.
A third night of unrest in Iran saw mass demonstrations across the country in which two people were killed, dozens arrested and public buildings attacked.
The demonstrations are the biggest since the Green Movement protests of 2009 against the re-election of the ultra-conservative ex-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which were violently repressed.
But now the roots of anger are above all economic and social, according to Abadi, who now lives in exile in London.
“In Iran, and it is not new, there is a very serious economic crisis. The corruption in the whole country is at appalling levels. The end of certain sanctions related to the nuclear agreement with Europe and the United States in 2015 did not bring real benefits to the population, contrary to what many expected,” the lawyer says.
“Added to this is the fact that Iran has very high military expenditures. People are not willing to see so much money spent on it,” she added.
“Young people are the most disappointed,” Ebadi says, referring to the high unemployment, corruption and “the climate of censorship”.
“The economic situation and the frightening gap between the rich and the poor, between those who enjoy well-being and those who cannot, are at the root of the protest,” the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize-winner says.
Turkey steps up IS arrests ahead of New Year attack anniversary
Turkey arrests more suspected Islamic State jihadists in a major crackdown on the extremist group ahead of high-security New Year celebrations overshadowed by the first anniversary of an attack that left 39 dead.
Just minutes into 2017, Istanbul was rocked by an attack by an Uzbek gunman acting on behalf of IS who fired indiscriminately on revelers at the Reina nightclub on the Bosphorus.
It was another body blow to Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after a year of attacks by jihadists and Kurdish rebels as well as a failed coup.
However there has been no major attack in Turkey in 2017 since the Reina murders, and security forces this year appear to be taking every possible precaution to ensure this New Year passes without incident.
In pre-dawn raids Sunday, authorities detained 20 suspected IS members in Istanbul, 15 of them foreigners, who are believed to have spent time in Syria or Iraq, the Dogan news agency says.
Turkish media have said the authorities had already detained some 200 suspected jihadists in recent days — including 75 in Istanbul and Ankara on Friday — fearing they could launch an attack over the New Year.
Telegram, Instagram affected by Iran internet restrictions
Access to the popular photo sharing and messaging apps Instagram and Telegram was restricted on cellphones, Iranian media reports on Sunday, after three days of protests in many cities.
Access to Telegram, which the government has accused of fomenting violence during the protests, was cut in the early afternoon, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency and other media.
Iran minister: Israel, US ‘gleeful’ over unrest
An Iranian minister says Israel and the United States are “gleefully” cheering the protests, “as if something was happening in Iran.”
“Our enemies, especially those who have no standing in their [own] countries and not been elected by people, have claimed to be backing our people and our people’s rights in the past few days,” says Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, according to Press TV.
“The occupying Zionist regime, the reactionary regimes in the region and the US are gleefully projecting certain scenes in their faulty minds as if something was happening in Iran,” he says. “They have not recognized our people.”
Telegram CEO confirms Iran blocking app
The CEO of Telegram confirms Iran is “blocking access … for the majority of Iranians” after protesters used the popular messaging app to plan and publicize demonstrations.
CEO Pavel Durov makes the announcement on Twitter Sunday.
Iranians say the app is now inaccessible by cellphone networks.
The Telegram app has been used to share videos of the protests, the largest since 2009, and times for new rallies.
Users say Sunday that they could no longer access the app via cellphone networks, though it was still available via wifi and home internet connections.
Iranian authorities are blocking access to Telegram for the majority of Iranians after our public refusal to shut down https://t.co/9E4kXZYcP9 and other peacefully protesting channels.
— Pavel Durov (@durov) December 31, 2017
Egypt witnesses: Residents prevented much worse attack on church
Witnesses say the deadly attack outside a church in Egypt lasted up to 20 minutes and that it took another 10 minutes before police apprehended the assailant.
Speaking to The Associated Press on Sunday, two days after the attack claimed by the Islamic State group, they said residents and worshippers may have prevented a much deadlier assault.
The Friday attack targeted the Mar Mina church in Cairo’s southern Helwan suburb and a nearby, Christian-owned shop, killing at least nine people in total.
The witnesses say quick thinking by worshipers who closed the church’s iron gate and the brave action of a 53-year-old resident who pounced on the gunman as he tried to reload his automatic rifle may have saved dozens of lives.
Trump: Iranians finally learning their money ‘squandered on terrorism’
US President Donald Trump says Iranians are “finally getting wise” on how their money is being “squandered on terrorism.”
Addressing the anti-regime and economic protests in the Islamic Republic for the third time since Friday, Trump tweets that the US is “watching very closely for human rights violations.”
Big protests in Iran. The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism. Looks like they will not take it any longer. The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 31, 2017
Australia, New Zealand lead world in ringing in 2018
Australia rings in the New Year Sunday with a spectacular display of rainbow-colored fireworks cascading from Sydney Harbour Bridge, as revelers mark the nation’s legalization of gay marriage amid tight security.
About 1.5 million people pack the city’s foreshore to watch the pyrotechnics light up the sky above the historic bridge and the iconic opera house, the first major celebrations worldwide after New Zealand.
“This is a fabulous way to see out 2017 — the year that four out of five Sydneysiders said a resounding ‘Yes’ to marriage equality,” says Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore of the nationwide postal vote in support of change.
Thousands turned out earlier in New Zealand’s largest city Auckland for the annual New Year’s Eve street party, marked by a major fireworks display from the Sky Tower.
Iran official claims ‘foreign agents’ killed protesters
An Iranian official claims the two protesters shot dead in Dorud during anti-regime demonstrations on Saturday night were killed by “foreign agents” and “enemies of the revolution.”
“Violent clashes broke out in the illegal demonstration in Dorud on Saturday and unfortunately two people were killed,” the deputy governor of Lorestan province, tells state TV, according to Reuters.
“No shots were fired by the police and security forces. We have found evidence of enemies of the revolution, Takfiri groups and foreign agents in this clash,” says Habibollah Khojastehpour.
Iran raps Canada’s ‘meddlesome’ stance on protests
Iran’s foreign ministry condemns Canada for supporting the protests sweeping the Islamic Republic.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran regards the meddlesome stance of the Canadian government as a violation of that country’s legal and international commitments,” says spokesman Bahram Qassemi, according to Press TV.
“Unfortunately, the Canadian government’s rhetoric is a rehash of the wrong, illogical and ineffective rhetoric of Canada’s previous governments against the Iranian people and is inadmissible,” he adds.
Canada on Saturday said it was “encouraged by the Iranian people who are exercising their basic right to protest peacefully.”
Coalition said struggling to muster majority for Shabbat bill
Coalition chairman David Amsalem is encountering difficulties in mustering a majority for a bill that would shutter mini-markets on Saturdays, according to Israel Radio.
Amid growing opposition to the proposed legislation, scheduled for its final votes on Monday evening, Amsalem has attempted to convince ultra-Orthodox lawmakers to exclude some kiosks from the proposal.
The ultra-Orthodox MKs have refused, according to the radio report.
Community service for settler who urged violence against soldiers, Palestinians
A far-right settler was sentenced to five months of community service Sunday for social media posts calling for violent action against Palestinians and Israeli soldiers.
Eliraz Fein was also given a 10-month suspended prison sentence and a NIS 2,000 ($575) fine for comments she made in an email forum where residents from the northern West Bank settlement of Yitzhar mulled the legality — according to Jewish law — of attacking, and even killing, IDF soldiers “under certain circumstances.”
— Jacob Magid
80 arrested in Arak, but overall number of Iran detainees unclear
The total number of arrests from the protests around Iran remains unclear.
An official in Arak, around 300 kilometers (190 miles) southwest of Tehran, says 80 people had been detained there overnight.
Police have so far taken a relatively soft approach to the unrest, and there has been no sign that the powerful Revolutionary Guards have yet been deployed.
Iranian authorities have blamed external forces for fomenting the protests, saying the majority of social media reports were emanating from regional rival Saudi Arabia or exile groups based in Europe.
President Hassan Rouhani has so far not made any statement since the protests started.
Palestinian woman indicted for slapping soldier
A military court on Sunday indicts Nour Tamimi, who was filmed along with her 16-year-old cousin Ahed slapping IDF soldiers outside the family’s home in Nebi Saleh earlier this month.
The 21-year-old is charged with aggravated assault of a soldier and preventing soldiers from carrying out their duties.
The Military Advocate General requests that Nour remain in prison until the end of the legal proceedings.
— Jacob Magid
Victims of Istanbul nightclub attack remembered
Some 100 people gather outside an Istanbul nightclub Sunday to remember the victims of a deadly New Year’s attack a year ago.
The group, holding carnations, observes a moment of silence. Among them were families of victims and consular and local officials. Islamic, Christian and Jewish prayers were recited.
Early on January 1, 2017, an assailant shot his way into the Reina nightclub where hundreds were celebrating the New Year. Thirty-nine people were killed — mostly foreigners — and 79 wounded.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility.
Lead suspect Abdulkadir Masharipov was apprehended in a police operation after two weeks in hiding. He is on trial along with 56 others.
Colorado deputies ‘down’ after being called to suburban Denver scene
Authorities in Colorado say a number of deputies from a sheriff’s office in suburban Denver have been wounded.
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office says via its Twitter account that a major highway south of the city was shut down Sunday. Residents in the vicinity were asked to shelter in place, and avoid windows and exterior walls.
No other details are immediately available. The nature of the injuries to the Douglas County deputies is not disclosed. It also isn’t known how many deputies were involved.
Nikki Haley: Iran being ‘tested by its own people’
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley backs the Iranian protesters, saying the people are “finding their voice.”
“The Iranian government is being tested by its own people,” she tweets. “We pray freedom & human rights will carry the day.”
RT:”Our hopes & prayers are with the millions of people suffering from repressive govts in NKorea,Venezuela,Cuba & esp in Iran, where the Iranian people are finding their voice.The Iranian govt is being tested by its own people.We pray freedom & human rights will carry the day.” pic.twitter.com/2KncUVfiiq
— Nikki Haley (@nikkihaley) December 31, 2017
Iran protesters, riot police clash across Tehran
Iranian protesters and riot police are clashing across Tehran, according to unverified footage posted on social media.
Photos posted online show police using water cannons and tear gas to disperse the demonstrations.
BREAKING: This video is recorded few mins ago showing protesters are being brutally attacked by Anti-riot police under command of #IRGC in Revolution square of #Tehran. Protests against Islamic regime. Tnx to citizen journalists who send us these videos. #IranProtests pic.twitter.com/KvBaYYAzkf
— Babak Taghvaee (@BabakTaghvaee) December 31, 2017
Outside the capital, scattered protests are reported across the country.
BREAKING: This is Ferdowsi square of #Tehran, anti-riot police under command of #IRGC is now brutally suppressing protesters. Protests against corrupted Shia clerics and authorities of Islamic regime of Iran. #IranProtests pic.twitter.com/lyvd2X5a8L
— Babak Taghvaee (@BabakTaghvaee) December 31, 2017
At several of the rallies, demonstrators are said to be chanting: “No Gaza, No Lebanon, Our lives are devoted to Iran,” in protest of generous military aid by Tehran to various terror groups, including Hamas and Hezbollah.
Others are calling for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to be deposed or killed.
‘Tehran is calm,’ only 200 demonstrating — semi-official media
Around 200 protesters march through downtown Tehran on Sunday, according to the conservative-linked semi-official Fars news agency, as authorities brace for a possible fourth night of unrest.
Several hundred more are shown gathering in the western city of Kermanshah, according to footage shared online by a group linked to the Revolutionary Guards.
“Contrary to rumors from hostile media, most parts of Tehran are calm. Around 200 people are occasionally chanting here and there,” Fars says.
It says shops had closed early “for fear of damage to their shops by rioters.”
200 arrested during Saturday protests in Tehran — official
An official in Tehran says on Sunday that 200 people were arrested during the previous night’s protests in the Iranian capital, the semi-official ILNA news agency reports.
“These individuals are now with the judiciary and some others have been freed out of clemency,” Ali Asghar Nasserbakht, a security deputy for Tehran’s governor, tells ILNA.
Likud body voting on resolution to annex parts of West Bank
Top activists in the ruling Likud party are convening for a vote on a resolution urging the party’s leaders to formally annex to Israel parts of the West Bank, and to allow unlimited construction in settlements.
Any such vote by Likud’s 3,000-member Central Committee would not be binding on cabinet ministers, but carries political force inside the party.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, and former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar are present at the Likud confab.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, long an opponent of such ideological declarations by party institutions, but eager in recent months to appeal to the party’s right-wing base, is not attending the gathering.
PA recalls US envoy for consultations after Jerusalem move
The Palestinians say Sunday they were recalling their envoy to the United States for consultations, in a move that follows US President Donald Trump’s designation of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki decided to recall PLO envoy to Washington Husam Zomlot, official Palestinian news agency WAFA says, without providing further details.
Rouhani: Iran must provide ‘space for criticism’
Iran’s president says people are free to protest, in his first comments since the widespread demonstrations began.
“Criticism is different to violence and destroying public property,” Hassan Rouhani says in a cabinet meeting, according to the state broadcaster.
“Government bodies should provide space for legal criticism and protest,” Rouhani says.
Rouhani: Trump has ‘no right’ to sympathize with Iranians
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani says Sunday that his US counterpart Donald Trump had “no right” to sympathize with Iranian protesters, whom he has previously called “terrorists.”
“This man who today in America wants to sympathize with our people has forgotten that a few months ago, he called the nation of Iran terrorist,” Rouhani tells a cabinet meeting, according to the state broadcaster.
“This person whose whole being is against the nation of Iran has no right to feel pity for the people of Iran.”
Intelligence minister says ‘murderous regime’ in Iran will fall
Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz says Iran’s “murderous regime” — which has long predicted Israel’s annihilation — will “disappear,” while the Jewish state will “exist forever.”
“The chief of staff of the Iranian army said the State of Israel will not exist in 25 years, I say to him — the State of Israel will exist forever, but you and your colleagues in the murderous regime will disappear long before,” he says, according to Israel Radio.
“I wish success to the protesters in Iran who are fighting for freedom and democracy,” adds Katz.
Likud top body urges annexation of parts of West Bank
The Likud Central Committee, the party’s top decision-making body, unanimously passes a resolution Sunday urging the faction’s leaders to formally annex parts of the West Bank and allow unlimited construction in the settlements.
The vote by Likud Central Committee is not binding on its Knesset lawmakers, but does carry political force as MKs need the support of the 3,000-member body to succeed in the party’s primaries.
The resolution reads: “Fifty years after the liberation of Judea and Samaria, and with them Jerusalem, our eternal capital, the Likud Central Committee calls on Likud’s elected leaders to work to allow unhindered construction and to extend Israeli law and sovereignty in all the areas of liberated settlement in Judea and Samaria.”
— Jacob Magid
UN’s Guterres issues year-end ‘red alert’ for a divided world
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday issues a year-end “red alert” to a world he said faces the perils of inequality, nationalism, xenophobia and possibly even nuclear war, unless it works to resolve its differences.
“When I took office one year ago, I appealed for 2017 to be a year for peace,” he says in his New Year’s message. “Unfortunately, in fundamental ways, the world has gone in reverse.
“Conflicts have deepened and new dangers have emerged. Global anxieties about nuclear weapons are the highest since the Cold War,” an allusion to the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear tests and missile firings.
“Climate change is moving faster than we are. Inequalities are growing. We see horrific violations of human rights,” says the former Portuguese prime minister, expressing concern as well over a rise in nationalism and xenophobia.
He suggests that the international community “can settle conflicts, overcome hatred and defend shared values, but we can only do that together.”
Iranian protester tells Israel TV: The regime has to fall
In an interview with an Israeli television station on Sunday, an Iranian anti-regime protester says the brutally suppressed protests of 2009 have shown the Iranian people they will only gain the rights they deserve if the ayatollahs’ regime falls.
The protester, who is shown with his features pixelated and uses the pseudonym Muhsan, tells Channel 10 TV that the Iranian people are “taking to the streets spontaneously in most cities in Iran” and have concluded that they must “get to the root” of Iran’s problems — “the regime and the leadership.”
Muhsan says the protests had initially erupted because of public anger at financial abuse. He says some of the country’s banks had stolen public money, and then declared bankruptcy, “and the worst thing is that the regime silenced protests over this.”
Exacerbating public anger, he says, was that the 2018 budget recently passed by parliament “will raise the cost of living by a great deal.” The people, he says, “can’t take it any more.”
Mohsen dismisses Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani as “like a puppet; he’s just a symbol so that they they’ll say there’s democracy in Iran.” Complete control in the Islamic Republic, he says, is in the hands of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his group of advisers.
Police boost forces ahead of New Year’s celebrations
Israel Police are stepping up security measures ahead of New Year’s celebrations to both ensure the festivities go smoothly and crack down on intoxicated drivers.
“General security measures taking place this evening and throughout the night for New Year’s Eve celebrations taking place across the country and in major cities,” a police spokesperson says.
This includes “extra units, special patrol units,” police say, “and border police are patrolling city centers, traffic police and volunteers also involved in preventing drinking and driving.”
Abbas warns Israel: Rethink your ‘aggressive’ policies ‘before it’s too late’
At an anniversary celebration marking the founding of the Fatah party, PA President Mahmoud Abbas urges Israel to rethink its “aggressive policies” and “apartheid system” before “it is too late.”
“We will not accept the status quo. We will not accept the apartheid system. We will not accept occupation without cost, and you [Israel] must rethink your aggressive policies and actions against our people, our land and our holy places before it is too late,” cautions Abbas, according to the official Wafa news agency.
Abbas slams the Israel Defense Forces and “settler terrorist groups” for their “crimes” against the Palestinians.
According to Channel 10, Abbas says the “murder” of a disabled Gazan protester killed in border clashes earlier this month and the arrest of a Palestinian teenager filmed slapping IDF soldiers in the West Bank “remind us of all the crimes by the Israeli security forces and settler terror groups.”
The army earlier this month said it did not intentionally shoot a disabled Palestinian man, Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh, who was killed in a riot along the Gaza security fence on Friday, but could not determine his cause of death.
In his address, Abbas also refers to the 2014 East Jerusalem murder of teenager Muhammed Abu Khdeir by Jewish extremists and the fatal Duma firebombing in 2015.
The PA leader again slams the United States for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6.
The city is “the eternal capital of the Palestinian people,” he says, according to Channel 10. “We are staying here and won’t leave until Palestine is liberated. East Jerusalem is the capital of the Palestinian state.”
Interior Committee approves Shabbat bill ahead of final votes
The Knesset Interior Committee approves a bill that would shutter mini-markets on Shabbat, clearing its way for its final plenum votes.
Despite concerns the coalition may lack the necessary votes to pass the bill in its second and third readings, a vote on the draft legislation is expected later today.
The opposition and the coalition’s Yisrael Beytenu party are refusing to have one MK skip the votes to compensate for the absence of Likud MK Yehudah Glick, whose wife died this morning.