The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they unfolded
UN envoy ‘concerned’ by outpost legalization bill
UN special envoy to the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, expresses his concern over the bill to legalize settlements built on private Palestinian land, which he says could harm the chances of reaching an agreement, and called on MKs to rethink their support for it.
“If adopted into law, it will have far reaching legal consequences for Israel and greatly diminish the prospects for Arab-Israeli peace,” Mladenov says in a statement sent to the media. “The bill has been deemed unconstitutional by the Attorney General of Israel and is in contravention of international law. I urge Israeli legislators to reconsider this move.”
The envoy also calls on both sides to resolve the central issues of the conflict “through direct negotiations on the basis of relevant Security Council resolutions and mutual agreements.”
Shin Bet: Hamas terror cell uncovered in West Bank
The Shin Bet security service reveals it uncovered an alleged Hamas terror cell in the Hebron area, which planned to carry out kidnapping, shooting and IED attacks in Israel.
The cell had begun collecting intelligence on a number of locations, including a synagogue in Zichron Ya’akov and the Binyamina central bus station.
According to the Shin Bet, the cell members gathered the information on the targets while they were employed in Israel without legal work permits.
The two central suspects in the case are brothers Hassan Sami Hassan Zidat, 23, and Muhammad Sami Hassan Zidat, 25, the Shin Bet says. Both of the men are residents of Bani Na’im, outside Hebron.
The alleged Hamas operatives purchased weapons, created improvised explosive devices and convinced other Palestinians to assist them in their plans, the Shin Bet says.
Hassan, who was convicted of murder by the Palestinian Authority, served as head of the cell, while his brother acquired the weapons, the Shin Bet says.
Today, state prosecutors in Haifa are filing an indictment against some members of the cell.
— Judah Ari Gross
Meeting Netanyahu, UK’s May stresses two-state solution
British Prime Minister Theresa May stresses the UK’s support for a two-state solution during her meeting in London with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
May also notes the centennial of the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which expressed British support for a Jewish homeland in pre-state Palestine, and highlights the high level of cooperation between the two nations.
The two were also to discuss Syria, Iran and other regional issues during their meeting at Downing Street.
Israeli jets strike Hamas outposts in northwest Gaza
Israeli Air Force fighter planes targeted three Hamas positions in the northwestern Gaza Strip, after a rocket fired from the coastal enclave this morning struck an open field south of Ashkelon, the army says.
The Hamas-affiliated al-Shehab media outlet says the Israeli planes targeted positions west of Jabalia in the northern Strip.
No Palestinians are injured in the strikes, according to the Gaza health ministry
This round of airstrikes joins an earlier IDF tank attack on Hamas positions, following the rocket that struck Israel this morning.
No group has taken responsibility for the morning’s missile launch. Regardless, Israel hold Hamas responsible since it rules the Gaza Strip.
— Judah Ari Gross and Dov Lieber
Lapid: PM, most coalition parties don’t like outpost bill
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid says the prime minister, most coalition parties, the High Court of Justice, and the attorney general all believe the outpost bill is “a bad law.”
“The new pro-Israel [Trump] administration thinks it’s a bad law,” he adds at the start of the weekly faction meeting.
He says the “only reason this law is being raised is politics.”
“They are passing a law that will endanger IDF soldiers, will endanger Israel’s international standing, will endanger our being a state of law and order, because they have problems within the coalition,” he says.
Lapid says his party will vote against the law, which was scheduled to be brought to the plenum on Monday evening for its final votes, though Netanyahu was reportedly seeking a delay to consult with the Trum
Top tech companies argue against Trump travel ban
Dozens of top tech companies — including Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter — file a joint legal brief arguing against President Donald Trump’s travel ban.
The brief was filed late last night with the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in support of an ongoing lawsuit against the ban. On Friday, following a lawsuit filed by the state of Washington challenging the ban, a federal judge in Seattle temporarily suspended Trump’s order pending a wider legal review.
The joint brief charges that the ban “inflicts significant harm on American business, innovation, and growth as a result,” according to a copy of the document published by US media outlets.
Executives from several top Silicon Valley companies had previously spoken out against the ban, which temporarily barred all refugees and travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the United States.
Trump: Poor polls are ‘fake news,’ most back tighter borders
Trump lashes out at all polls showing he has low popularity, calling them “fake news,” and insisting that most Americans support his plans to tighten entry into the US.
“Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election. Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting,” the president writes on Twitter, in what has become his almost daily morning series of tweets.
Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election. Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 6, 2017
Netanyahu in UK: ‘Responsible nations’ should back new Iran sanctions
Netanyahu says that all “responsible nations” should back new sanctions against Iran, speaking during a meeting with his British counterpart Theresa May in London.
“I welcome President Trump’s insistence on new sanctions against Iran. I think other nations should follow suit, certainly responsible nations,” he says, accusing Iran of “provocation after provocation.”
Herzog: Outpost bill will be ‘disaster’ for Israel
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog slams the outpost bill, warning it would be a disaster for the State of Israel, hours before the legislation is due to be presented for its final Knesset votes.
“The attorney general’s deputies said the courts would not honor the bill as it is illegal,” he tells a meeting of his Zionist Union faction. “Therefore, I call on the members of the coalition, Defense Minister [Avigdor] Liberman and Finance Minister [Moshe] Khalon — you cannot agree to a law such as this. You would be supporting an illegal law and you cannot do that.”
Herzog also urges coalition MKs to “stop tonight’s vote, which would be a disaster for the state.”
Stretch of Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway closes due to fire
A fire in a vehicle shutters a section of the main Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway close to the entrance to the capital.
Police close Route 1 to Jerusalem-bound traffic in the area of the Shaar Hagai interchange as firefighters battle the blaze, the Walla website reports.
French poll: Centrist Macron leading Le Pen in election vote
A new poll in France shows centrist independent candidate Emmanuel Macron trouncing far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the second round of voting for the country’s new president.
According to the poll, Marcron would pull in 65% of the vote, while the National Front leader would win just 35%, Walla says. Le Pen is expected to win the first round against Macron and conservative candidate Francois Fillon, a former favorite who has seen his own prospects disappear in the wake of corruption allegations.
The report does not specify how many people were polled or the margin of error.
Demolition of large Amona buildings gets underway
The Defense Ministry begins demolishing some of the larger buildings in the evacuated Amona outpost, having removed the smaller trailers by truck.
An aerial video from the scene, filmed by former Amona residents, shows two bulldozers tearing down a large, green-roofed structure.
A ministry official earlier told The Times of Israel that any buildings that cannot be transported off the hilltop on a truck will be demolished.
The Defense Ministry started dismantling the illegal settlement, which was evacuated last week, earlier this morning.
In 2014, the High Court of Justice determined that Amona had to be demolished as part of it was built on privately owned Palestinian land.
— Judah Ari Gross
Army checking reports of gunshots along Gaza fence
The army is investigating reports of gunfire along the Gaza security fence, near the Kissufim crossing.
No injuries have been reported.
Soldiers reportedly heard the sound of a gunshot near the security fence outside the central Gaza Strip.
This incident comes on the heels of Israeli retaliatory airstrikes in response to a rocket fired from Gaza toward southern Israel this morning.
— Judah Ari Gross
Russia to US: Changing Iran nuclear deal would have consequences
Russia warns the US against trying to change the terms of the nuclear agreement with Iran, saying that such a move would have consequences.
According to Reuters, which quotes the Russian news agency Interfax, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov says the US should not “try to fix what is not broken.”
Trump has blasted the agreement as “the worst deal I’ve ever seen,” and in recent days slapped new sanctions on Iran over ballistic missile tests. Senior members of his administration, however, have indicated that the White House will not do away with the agreement.
Vote on outpost bill officially scheduled for this afternoon
The final votes for the controversial outpost legalization bill appear in the official schedule for this afternoon’s Knesset plenary session.
The inclusion ends speculation over whether the coalition would go ahead with the vote despite reported opposition from Netanyahu.
Earlier today, coalition chairman David Bitan told The Times of Israel that he had received no instruction to pull the bill from the plenary agenda.
“The prime minister has not asked me to delay the vote, so I won’t,” he said.
— Raoul Wootliff
IDF tank fire reported on Hamas position in Gaza
Palestinian media is reporting that Israeli tanks fired again at a Hamas position in the central Gaza Strip, after IDF troops reported hearing gunfire on their positions near the fence surrounding the coastal enclave.
The shelling is said to have hit near the Gaza town Maghazi.
There are no immediate reports of injuries.
— Judah Ari Gross
Images from Gaza show Palestinians fleeing IAF strikes
Images from the Gaza Strip show Palestinians running away as Israeli airstrikes send plumes of sand and smoke spiraling into the air.
The army attacked Hamas positions in the northern Strip earlier today following a rocket strike near the southern coastal city of Ashkelon.
According to the Palestinian news outlet al-Quds, one of the Hamas positions hit in the airstrikes was a naval base.
The health ministry in the Gaza-run coastal enclave said on Twitter there were no reports of Palestinian injuries in the strikes.
Opposition tries to force vote on outpost bill while most coalition MKs absent
Confusion ensues in the Knesset plenary as opposition MKs apparently try to bring forward final voting on controversial outpost bill while coalition lawmakers are absent from the plenum.
Deputy Speaker Yizhak Vaknin (Shas) scuppers the plan, however, saying that according to a decision by the Knesset House Committee, the vote will only take place at 10:30 p.m. regardless of the debate beforehand.
— Merav Michaeli (@MeravMichaeli) February 6, 2017
— Raoul Wootliff
PM backs outpost bill, says White House informed
Netanyahu says he informed the US administration about the impending vote on the controversial outpost legalization bill, which he says will go ahead later today as planned.
“I never said I want to push it off,” he tells Israeli reporters during a briefing after his meeting with Theresa May in London. “I act according to the national interests. In my view, you don’t surprise friends. Friends don’t surprise each other. Friends update each other. That’s what I did.”
Netanyahu stresses that he did not ask for the Americans’ permission to pass the legislation, but merely informed them of his intention to pass the bill on its second and third readings.
The prime minister says he acts “responsibly,” but declines to comment on his ostensible warning that the law might be illegal under international law and might land Israeli leaders in the dock at the International Criminal Court.
BREAKING: @IsraeliPM says he supports controversial Regulation Bill which legalizes West Bank outposts, and has updated Trump administration
— Raphael Ahren (@RaphaelAhren) February 6, 2017
— Raphael Ahren
IDF to test rocket alert system in central Israel
The IDF will tomorrow test its rocket alert system in the Sharon region of central Israel.
At 10:05 a.m., the incoming missile alarm will sound in the city of Netanya, as well as in the surrounding communities, from Batsra, north of Herzliya, to Michmoret, south of Hadera.
In the case of an actual rocket alert siren, the system will sound twice, the army says.
As always, the IDF says that its system tests and exercises are not connected to any particular incident and are often scheduled months in advance.
— Judah Ari Gross
Farmers in south told to keep away from Gaza border
Farmers in the area of the Gaza border are told to keep their distance from the frontier, following suspected gunfire targeting IDF troops close to the central Strip.
The farmers are instructed to stay at least 1 kilometer away from the border, Channel 10 reports.
Pro-, anti-Israel protesters face off in London as PM meets May
Hundreds of protesters for and against Israel face off in London as Netanyahu holds talks with British counterpart Theresa May in Downing Street.
Some 300 people carrying banners reading “Free Palestine” and demanding that Netanyahu be tried in the ICC are met by around 150 counter-demonstrators singing “Am Yisrael Hai” (the people of Israel live), Jewish News reports.
Board of Deputies President Jonathan Arkush welcomes the support for Netanyahu, whom he calls “the democratically elected leader of the UK’s most dependable ally in the Middle East.”
The anti-Israel protest was organized by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, while the counter demonstration was put together by the Zionist Federation of the UK.
— Justin Cohen (@CohenJust) February 6, 2017
In ‘moving’ moment, PM visits site of signing of Balfour Declaration
Following talks with PM May in London, Netanyahu visits the room where then-foreign secretary Arthur Balfour penned his famous declaration announcing British support for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
“With British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, exactly in the place where nearly 100 years ago Foreign Secretary Balfour signed the declaration recognizing the right of the Jewish people to a national home in the Land of Israel,” Netanyahu writes on Facebook, in a blurb accompanying an image of him and Johnson.
“The Balfour Declaration was incorporated into the terms of the British Mandate and adopted by the United Nations – and until today it reminds a binding document that defines the international legal status of the Land of Israel. Being in this room was a particularly moving moment for me as the prime minister of Israel.”
עם שר החוץ הבריטי בוריס ג'ונסון, בדיוק במקום בו לפני כמעט 100 שנה חתם שר החוץ בלפור על ההצהרה המכירה בזכותו של העם היהוד…
PM asks UK to stop funding Breaking the Silence
Netanyahu tells Israeli reporters in London that he asked Theresa May to stop British government funding for Breaking the Silence, an organization that provides a platform for IDF veterans to expose alleged abuses of Palestinians during their military service.
Last December, then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon banned the left-wing NGO from all events involving soldiers, saying “it became clear that this is an organization operating with malicious motives” that is primarily concerned with vilifying the IDF abroad. A week later, Education Minister Naftali Bennett banned its members from speaking to high school students.
Hamas: Israel responsible for any Gaza escalation
Hamas says it will hold Israel fully responsible for any fallout or escalation following Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip earlier today.
In total, the Israel Defense Forces struck five Hamas positions in Gaza, including a naval base near the city of Jabaliya, in response to rocket fire on Ashkelon and gunfire on IDF troops along the border.
Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem calls on regional and global powers to curb Israel’s “aggression.”
— Dov Lieber
Turkey hit by 2 magnitude 5.3 quakes; 11 villages damaged
Two earthquakes with preliminary magnitudes of 5.3 jolted Turkey’s northern Aegean Sea coast, damaging dozens of homes in 11 villages and injuring at least five people, officials say.
The first quake, which was centered beneath the Aegean off the coast of the town of Ayvacik in Turkey’s northwestern Canakkale province, struck at 6:51 a.m. (0351 GMT), according to the government’s crisis management agency. The second temblor hit at 1:58 p.m. (1058 GMT) and was centered in Ayvacik.
More than a hundred aftershocks were recorded in the region, the strongest measuring magnitude 4.4, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reports.
Orhan Tavli, the governor for Canakkale, says 40 homes were damaged in the worst-hit village of Yukarikoy, near Ayvacik. Some 50 homes in 10 other nearby villages were also affected.
“Praise God, there was no loss of life,” Tavli tells reporters in Yukarikoy.
IAF launches fresh airstrikes on Gaza — Palestinian media
Palestinian media outlets report a fresh wave of Israeli airstrikes against Hamas positions in Gaza, joining the five other attacks carried out by the IDF in response to a rocket attack and gunfire coming out of the Strip.
The army would not comment on the reported strikes.
— Judah Ari Gross
PM late returning to Israel, threatening presence at outpost bill vote
Netanyahu’s return flight from London to Israel is delayed, casting doubts on whether he will be able to make it back to the Knesset in time for the vote on the controversial outpost bill.
The flight was supposed to take off at 5 p.m. local time (7 p.m. Israel time), at which time the prime minister was still at the Foreign Office. The plane is now expected to land at 1 a.m. Israel time.
The vote on the bill is set to go ahead without the prime minister’s presence, as sources in the Prime Minister’s Office say the government has a majority to ensure its passage.
Reports: IDF targeting multiple Gaza sites
Palestinian media say Israel is targeting multiple locations in Gaza with both airstrikes and artillery shelling.
Airstrikes are reported in the Gaza city neighborhood of Shejaiya, in the central Strip.
According to one report, Israeli jets fired multiple rockets at targets in Shejaiya.
Israeli artillery is also said to have pounded Juhor ad-Dik, likewise in central Gaza.
— Dov Lieber
US: Trump aide never said engagement with PA on hold
The White House denies that a senior official in the Trump administration told Palestinian businessmen there would be no engagement with the Palestinian Authority for now.
Palestinian sources told The Times of Israel that it was understood from Friday’s meeting with Jason Greenblatt that the administration would only engage with the PA after Trump meets with Netanyahu on February 15.
The US confirms The Times of Israel report that Greenblatt and other officials met with the three in Washington, but insists that he never made such a comment.
“Earlier this week, White House officials, including Jason Greenblatt, held a constructive introductory meeting with a group of Palestinian business leaders who were visiting Washington for meetings with US officials, Congress, and other organizations,” an official at the National Security Council said in a statement to The Times of Israel.
“The assertion that Mr. Greenblatt said that the United States does not intend to have a relationship with the Palestinian Authority at this juncture is false.”
To date, however, officials in the new administration have not met or talked with any PA officials.
— Avi Issacharoff
PM: We will respond with force to whoever attacks us
Netanyahu warns Hamas against ongoing attacks from the Gaza Strip, saying that Israel will respond with force.
“Our policy is clear, whoever fires on us, we will return fire, forcefully,” says the prime minister in a Hebrew video message recorded during his visit to London today and posted on Facebook.
“There is no such thing as a drip-drip [of rocket fire] without a response. Our policy is clear, and I hope it is also clear to Hamas.”
היום נורתה אש לעבר מדינת ישראל מרצועת עזה. המדיניות שלנו היא ברורה: מי שיורה עלינו – אנחנו משיבים באש, ובעוצמה. אין דבר כזה טפטופים ללא תגובה.המדיניות שלנו היא ברורה, ואני מקווה שהיא גם ברורה לחמאס.
Posted by ראש ממשלת ישראל on Monday, 6 February 2017
Gaza official: 2 hurt in IDF strikes on southern Strip
A spokesman for Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry says two Palestinians were injured by shrapnel in today’s Israeli airstrikes on the city of Khan Younis, in the southern Strip.
The spokesman, Dr. Ashraf al-Qidra, does not specify the extent of the injuries.
— Dov Lieber
IDF confirms new Gaza strikes, says Hamas positions targeted
The IDF confirms that it carried out a fresh wave of airstrikes against “three terrorist infrastructures belonging to the Hamas terrorist group” in the Gaza Strip.
The army says the bombardment was in response not only to today’s rocket attack and gunfire, but also in light of a number of small-scale incidents along the security fence.
“The IDF will continue to defend Israeli civilians against the threats emanating from Hamas’s Gaza,” IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner says in a statement.
— Judah Ari Gross
Hamas: Gaza strikes are continuation of Israeli aggression
Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem slams ongoing IDF strikes on Gaza as a continuation of Israel’s “policy of aggression” and calls for international intervention.
“The escalation is a new link in the chain of the occupation’s continued attacks against the Palestinian people and the people of the Strip,” Qassem says in a statement sent to Palestinian news outlets. “It comes as a continuation of the policy of aggression against our people and the siege imposed on Gaza.”
He adds: “The escalation and continuous attacks will not break the steadfastness of our people and its resistance.”
Qassem also calls for “international and regional agencies to curb the aggression of the occupation.”
— Dov Lieber
Report: US told PM to hold outpost bill until after Trump meeting
Channel 2 TV says the White House told Netanyahu to delay the final votes on the controversial bill to legalize outposts built on privately owned Palestinian land until after he met with Trump in Washington on February 15.
The bill is being presented for the second and third votes tonight, and is expected to pass.
According to the report, the message was passed through more than one channel.
Sources close to the prime minister denied the claim, the television station says.
Watchdog: 45% of Netanyahu’s flights as finance minister funded twice
State Comptroller Yosef Shapira says almost half (45%) of Netanyahu’s flights abroad during his stint as finance minister were funded twice — once by the Treasury and again by a foreign entity, individual or organization, Channel 10 reports.
The state comptroller also says that every one of the trips by Netanyahu while he was serving as finance minister showed financial abnormalities, such as using excess funds from one aspect of a trip to pay for other parts of it.
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who is currently serving a 19-month prison sentence for corruption, was also accused of double-billing trips while he was mayor of Jerusalem and during his time as industry minister. He was acquitted of those charges in 2012.
Knesset voting to pass the controversial Regulation Bill
The Knesset is voting to pass the controversial Regulation bill that that paves the way for Israel to recognize some 4,000 illegally built settler homes.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not make it back in time to vote from his trip to London.
Knesset passes Regulation Bill to legalizes West Bank outposts
In a late night session, the Knesset passes the final readings of the controversial so-called Regulation Bill that paves the way for Israel to recognize some 4,000 illegally built settler homes.
The law goes before lawmakers at just after 10.30 pm and receives 60 votes in favor to just 52 against.