The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they unfolded.
New Zealand police say no more survivors are expected to be rescued from an island volcano that erupted suddenly today, suggesting as many as two dozen people could have died.
Police say some 50 people were visiting White Island when it exploded in the early afternoon — hurling ash and rock high into the air.
Some 23 people made it off the island, five of whom have since died, the rest were being treated for injuries, including severe burns.
It was earlier estimated the number still on the island was in double digits.
Police say that despite several aerial reconnaissance flights to try and find those trapped “no signs of life have been seen at any point.”
“Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island. Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died.”
As night falls, deputy commissioner John Tims says volcanic activity makes a rescue attempts by land too dangerous.
“I’ve got to consider the safety of our people and emergency services staff,” he says.
The New Zealand military is expected to make a pass of the island at first light in the hope that people may have survived against the odds.
At least two Turkish soldiers have been killed and seven others wounded while attempting to defuse an improvised explosive device, officials say.
The device exploded in a village near the town of Idil, in the mainly-Kurdish populated Sirnak province, according to a statement from the regional governor’s office. It says the explosive device was planted by militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.
The statement doesn’t provide further details but says Turkey’s operations to combat the PKK are continuing with “determination.”
There is no word on the wounded soldiers’ conditions.
The PKK, which is considered a terror organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, has been waging an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people since then.
In October, Turkey invaded areas of northeast Syria in a bid to drive Syrian Kurdish fighters away from its border. Turkey says the Syrian Kurdish fighters are linked to the PKK and has been infuriated by Western nations’ support to the militia.
With two days left for an increasingly unlikely political solution that would prevent fresh elections from being called, MKs are meeting each other in circumstances that are not presently known.
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett is seen entering the office of Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman.
בנט נכנס לפגישה עם ליברמן pic.twitter.com/WUZ44RtPsk
— ארי קלמן Ari kalman (@aronkalman1) December 9, 2019
At the same time, Bennett’s fellow New Right MK Ayelet Shaked is seen in the office of Blue and White leader Benny Gantz.
— Nadav Elimelech (@NadavElimelech) December 9, 2019
Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid announces that he will abandon a rotation agreement for the premiership with party leader Benny Gantz.
“If there are elections, we’ve decided that this time there won’t be a rotation agreement. We will go together, all of us, a large and united Blue and White behind Benny Gantz, our candidate for prime minister,” Lapid says at the opening of the Blue and White faction meeting in the Knesset.
“Surprisingly, it wasn’t a difficult decision. I sat on Friday evening with my children and said to them, ‘I promised you that I would always do what’s best for the country. This is what’s best for the country,'” Lapid says. “I don’t feel like I’m giving up on something. I feel privileged. It’s a privilege to be part of Blue and White. To be part of the change this country needs as much as we need oxygen to breathe. Part of the change is remembering that you are not the issue, the citizens of Israel are.”
The agreement — which would have seen Gantz take the post for the first two and a half years if the party forms the next government, and Lapid taking over for the next year and a half — was key to the unity deal between Gantz’s Israel Resilience and Lapid’s Yesh Atid when the two factions merged to form Blue and White ahead of the April elections.
According to Lapid, “We built the largest party in the country. We set principles and values and stood by them despite all the temptations. We will do everything to prevent elections in the coming few days. If we succeed, great. If not – Blue and White will run united in the next election, led by Benny Gantz. And we will win.”
— Raoul Wootliff
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashes out at Israel, accusing it of “openly executing” and “mercilessly murdering” innocent Palestinians.
Speaking at a conference organized by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Erdogan says the situation in the Holy Land and in Jerusalem “gets worse day by day. Israel’s attitude which knows no rights, law, justice or humanity continuously deepens the crisis in the region to the detriment of Muslims.”
“We today face a Palestine on the streets of which innocent girls, fathers, mothers, elderly people, children and young people are openly executed and mercilessly murdered by Israel. What is more, Western countries and — I regret to say — some Arab states practically encourage this brutality of Israel. We, as Turkey, most of the time feel ourselves left alone in our objections to the oppression in Al-Quds and Palestine.”
“We will continue to uphold the truth and justice and stand by the oppressed at all costs. We will never stop defending the Al-Quds cause and the rights of the Palestinians or acting in solidarity with all the oppressed,” adds Erdogan, who has been widely accused of oppressing minorities in Turkey and quashing civil liberties.
A Jordanian court sentences a man to eight years in prison for allegedly plotting to attack the Israeli embassy in Amman last year.
The state security court rules that Khaled Abu Raya “threatened to carry out terrorist acts.”
According to the charge sheet the 33-year-old Jordanian planned “to open fire on the embassy and its employees in a bid to kill a large number of Israelis.”
The plot was alleged to be in response to the transfer of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May 2018, a major policy shift that outraged Palestinians and Arabs.
According to the charge sheet, it was also motivated by Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip which has been rocked by anti-Israeli protests since March last year.
The same court also sentences another Jordanian, Munir Ibrahim, to three years in jail for allegedly planning to infiltrate Israel and attack soldiers in the Jewish state.
Illegal crossings of the tightly secured border between Jordan and Israel are rare.
Earlier this month, Jordan referred an Israeli to court on charges of illegally entering the kingdom and possessing drugs.
Ties between the two countries, which are bound by a peace treaty, have been cool in recent years amid disagreements and issues linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz addresses Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a faction meeting, saying there is still a chance to prevent “expensive and unnecessary” elections from being called later this week.
But he says a condition for that is the premier vowing he won’t ask the Knesset to grant him immunity from prosecution in three corruption cases — reportedly a condition Netanyahu has been setting for any unity government.
“Netanyahu must put Israel’s best interest ahead of Netanyahu’s and make a move,” Gantz says. “I repeat my call to the prime minister to promise, with your own voice, to give up immunity, and do that today. If you give up immunity, we are partners for the beginning of negotiations.”
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev says a four-year doping ban against the country is the result of “anti-Russian hysteria” and should be appealed.
“This is the continuation of this anti-Russian hysteria that has already become chronic,” Medvedev is quoted as saying by local news agencies.
The military confirms that the young man who was seriously injured in a lightning strike yesterday was an IDF soldier.
This information had been censored until his family could be notified.
The IDF says the soldier was taking part in a training exercise at the time of the lightning strike.
He was taken to Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center for treatment in serious but stable condition.
— Judah Ari Gross
Former US Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, who tackled American inflation in the 1970s and ’80s and later lent his name to landmark Wall Street reforms, died yesterday, according to media reports.
Volcker, who headed the US central bank from 1979 to 1987, was 92.
The 19-year-old IDF soldier who was seriously injured yesterday when he was struck by lightning regains partial consciousness and is responding to stimuli, the Rambam hospital in Haifa says.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismisses as “transparent spin” the announcement by Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid that if elections are held, he will give up the rotation agreement with his party leader Benny Gantz. He also calls for last-minute talks with Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman to form a right-wing coalition.
“Gantz and Lapid, enough with the transparent tricks that are aimed at distracting attention from your refusal to form a broad national unity government that would sign a mutual defense pact with the United States and annex wide swaths of Judea and Samaria,” he says in a statement, referring to the West Bank by its biblical name.
“Since Lapid and Gantz are persisting in their refusal and are only engaging in transparent spin, there is only one option left to prevent unnecessary elections: I call on Avigdor Liberman to enter expedited negotiations in the 48 hours left to form a strong right-wing government for Israel.”
Sources within the Israel Defense Forces are quoted by Channel 12 as saying a story reported earlier today by Russian blog Avia alleging that Russian jets had thwarted an Israeli strike in Syria is untrue.
According to the report, which appeared in a blog that is considered unreliable, the Russian jets were scrambled in southern Syria toward Israeli warplanes planning to attack an Iranian shipment at the T-4 base.
The Blue and White party responds to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s accusation that it is engaging in “transparent spin.”
“The only thing that is transparent is Netanyahu’s will to lead Israel to additional elections just to get immunity” from prosecution in three corruption cases, the party says in a statement.
“Netanyahu, set Israel free [from yourself],” it adds.
The head of the IDF Northern Command orders a halt to all exercises following a training accident earlier in the day in which a tank flipped over.
During a training session in northern Israel, the Merkava tank turned onto its side. The crew, from the 188th Armored Brigade, was pulled from the tank unscathed.
The military launched an investigation into the incident. IDF Northern Command chief Maj. Gen. Amir Baram has halted all exercises in his region until the initial findings of the probe are presented.
“In addition, he ordered the lessons of the incident be shared to all units,” the military says.
— Judah Ari Gross
Jewish actor Sacha Baron Cohen lands a Golden Globe nomination for best actor in a limited series or TV movie for portraying Israeli spy Eli Cohen in Netflix series “The Spy.”
The English actor tweets his thanks, including to the show’s “visionary” Israeli writer and producer Gideon Raff, and says he shares the recognition with Eli Cohen’s family.
I am hugely proud of The Spy and thrilled that it has been seen and embraced by audiences around the globe. I share this recognition with Eli Cohen’s family and everyone who worked on The Spy.
— Sacha Baron Cohen (@SachaBaronCohen) December 9, 2019
Eli Cohen, who spied for Israel in Syria during the 1960s, provided valuable intelligence that was said to have greatly assisted the Israeli military in the 1967 Six Day War. Cohen was caught and eventually executed by Syrian authorities in 1965. Israel has worked to retrieve his remains for decades.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky are meeting for the first time ever at a summit in Paris seen as a critical opportunity to take steps to end five years of conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Putin and Zelensky sit down at a table with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel for the start of a four-way meeting at the Elysee Palace.
Appearing to reject Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s call today for expedited negotiations to avert elections, Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman says a narrow right-wing government would be “trouble” for Israel.
Liberman makes the remarks during a meeting with mayors and local council leaders from Netanyahu’s Likud party. The footage from the closed meeting is published by the Walla news site.
Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar concludes a rare visit to Bahrain, where he met the Arab kingdom’s king, as well as religious leaders from Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Russia, the United States, Italy, India, and Thailand.
“Middle East nations want peace with Israel, the leadership should promote that without fear,” Amar, the former chief rabbi of Israel, said during his stay, expressing hope that in the future, such visits would not require special preparation.
He was invited by the king to attend an interfaith event. Diplomatic officials and the Foreign Ministry were involved in organizing the visit and the schedule.
תחת אבטחה ובתיאום גורמים מדיניים בישראל, הראשל"צ הגאון רבי שלמה משה עמאר ביקר בכנס ראשי דתות בבחריין. pic.twitter.com/KLtdjvmjMp
— ישי כהן (@ishaycoen) December 9, 2019
Officials in the office of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit have warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that annexing the Jordan Valley, as he has vowed to do, would expose Israeli officials to investigation by the International Criminal Court, the Haaretz website reports.
The report says those who could be probed are local settler leaders, IDF officers and other public servants.
A US watchdog report rejects US President Donald Trump’s claims that the Russia investigation was illegitimate and tainted by political bias from FBI leaders. The Russia probe finds no evidence of political bias, despite performance failures, according to a summary obtained by The Associated Press.
The Justice Department’s internal watchdog is expected to officially release the highly anticipated report today.
— with AP
An opinion poll by the Kan public broadcaster predicts more positive results than have thus far been forecast for Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar, if he is chosen to lead the party instead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is plagued by legal woes.
The poll shows Likud getting 34 Knesset seats if Netanyahu is the leader, compared with 32 for Sa’ar — an improvement over the 25 or 26 seats predicted for Likud by previous polls, if Sa’ar is the leader.
The poll also shows the right-wing religious bloc doing better with Sa’ar at the helm — 57 seats — than with Netanyahu (56).
As UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn visits Bristol, Jewish students stage a protest against widespread anti-Semitism within the party and failure to adequately deal with complaints about anti-Semitic manifestations.
In response, Labour counter-protesters accuse them of “occupation in Palestine” and the “killing of Palestinian people.”
Holding Jews collectively responsible for alleged wrongdoing carried out by Israel’s government is considered anti-Semitic according to the definition of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which Labour adopted earlier this year, after much pressure.
The absolute state of this.
Jewish students protested Labour antisemitism at a Corbyn visit to Bristol today. Not only did local labour supporters counter-protest, but accused them of occupying Palestine and Kashmir. Police were called.
Antisemitic, even by Labour's standards. pic.twitter.com/KABD6WATyF
— Hannah Rose (@hannah1_rose) December 9, 2019
It gets worse…
An individual wearing labour stickers blames jewish students for "the killing of Palestinian people".
They call young jewish women "a disgrace to the Jewish people" for calling out antisemitism.
The indiv was later questioned by police. pic.twitter.com/6uKO26wjIq
— Hannah Rose (@hannah1_rose) December 9, 2019
Eight people are still missing after a volcanic eruption in New Zealand that killed five people, and there are no indications they survived the explosion, police say.
“Forty-seven people went onto the island — we can now confirm five are deceased, 31 are currently in hospital, a further eight are still missing, and three have been discharged from hospital,” police official Bruce Bird says.
Among the missing are tourists from Australia, the United States, Britain, China and Malaysia.
A security guard at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence in Caesarea suffers mild injuries to his hand, after a bullet is unintentionally discharged, the Prime Minister’s Office says.
Netanyahu himself was not in the area when the incident occurred.
The guard has been taken to hospital for treatment. The incident will be investigated in the coming days.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party has reportedly proposed a “final” offer to Yisrael Beytenu party chief Avigdor Liberman, which includes the latter possibly serving as prime minister in the fourth and final year of the term.
However, as Channel 12 reports the offer, multiple news outlets indicate it has virtually no chance of succeeded, quoting Netanyahu as telling his associates: “Liberman will not compromise. We are going to elections.”
The United States says it is seeking a UN Security Council meeting this week on the risk of North Korean “provocation,” as Pyongyang demands US concessions by a year-end deadline.
The meeting should provide “a comprehensive update on recent developments on the Korean Peninsula, including recent missile launches and the possibility of an escalatory DPRK provocation,” a State Department spokesperson says, referring to the North by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Two men are killed as a vehicle overturns on Route 25 in the southern Negev region, near the Bedouin town of Abu Talul.
Two more men are taken to the Soroka hospital in Beersheba in serious condition.
All those hurt are in their 20s.
An initial police investigation indicates that no other vehicles were involved in the accident.