The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s news as it happened

Man trying to drive with cast on foot smashes into old-age home, injures baby

A man has been detained after his car smashed into the door of an old-age home in Rishon Lezion, apparently accidentally, according to reports in Hebrew-language media.

Three people are injured in the incident, including a woman with head wounds and two others with light injuries. One of the two is an 8-month-old, Ynet reports.

The man, in his 60s, is suspected of endangering the public by attempting to drive despite having a cast on his foot. He is also lightly injured in the crash.

New York police investigating 2 alleged assaults against Jews

NEW YORK — The New York police’s hate crimes unit says it is investigating two alleged assaults against Jews over the weekend.

The two incidents took place during Shabbat on Friday night in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood.

In one attack captured by security cameras, an ultra-Orthodox man and woman are seen walking down a sidewalk.

An assailant trails them behind a row of parked cars, then runs up behind the man and strikes him in the back of the head, knocking his hat to the ground. The assailant then flees.

Another alleged assault was reported in the same area on Friday night, according to local groups and the Anti-Defamation League. Details were not immediately available, and it was not clear if the attacks were connected.

The New York Police Department’s Hate Crimes Task Force says it opened an active investigation into the incidents, with the help of the local police department and the Shomrim community protection group.

The Anti-Defamation League offered a $7,500 reward for information on the attacks.

Tunisian leader seeks to dissolve nation’s top judiciary

Tunisia’s president has announced a plan to dissolve the national judiciary body on suspicion of corruption and mishandling of sensitive political cases, according to local media reports Sunday.

The decision by President Kais Saied to disband the Superior Council of the Judiciary comes as Tunisians mark the ninth anniversary of the assassination of a prominent left-wing leader and an outspoken critic of the Islamist movement.

During a surprise visit to the Tunisia’s Interior Ministry on Saturday night, Said blasted members of the judiciary, accusing some judges and magistrates of “corruption … nepotism … and stalling proceedings in several cases, including those of political assassinations.”

“The Superior Council of the Judiciary can from now on consider itself a thing of the past,” the president said, adding that a decree to set up a provisional council will be issued soon.

Bennett and Biden discuss Iran, killing of IS chief, in phone call

Prime Minister Bennett speaks with US President Joe Biden, lauding the American raid in which the head of the Islamic State terror group was killed and discussing efforts to block Iran’s nuclear program, the premier’s office says.

“The world is a safer place thanks to the brave efforts of American forces,” the prime minister tells the president, according to his office.

Bennett’s office says the two also discuss the threats posed by Iran in the region, as well as the “steps to block the Iranian nuclear program.”

“In addition, the two spoke about the situation between Russia and Ukraine,” Bennett’s office says.

During the conversation, Bennett also invites Biden and his wife to visit Israel.

Herzog calls Erdogan to wish him speedy recovery from COVID

President Herzog speaks on the phone with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is sick with COVID, and wishes him a speedy recovery.

According to a readout from the president’s office, Erdogan thanked Herzog for inquiring after his health.

The call comes amid a thawing of ties between the two countries, after more than a decade of frosty exchanges.

According to the readout, the two men discussed the possibility that they would meet soon, an allusion to Erdogan’s invitation to Herzog to visit Turkey.

COVID vaccination compulsory in Austria, in EU first

It’s official: Austrians over the age of 18 must be vaccinated against COVID-19 from Saturday or face the possibility of a heavy fine, an unprecedented measure in the European Union.

The new measure, adopted on January 20 by Parliament, came into force on yesterday, the culmination of a process that began in November in the face of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

The government decided to pursue its new, tougher approach despite criticism within the country.

“No other country in Europe is following us on compulsory vaccines,” says Manuel Krautgartner, who has campaigned against the new approach.

In neighboring Germany, a similar proposal championed by the new Social Democrat Chancellor Olaf Scholz was debated last month in the lower house of Parliament, but many MPs still oppose the idea.

Justice minister vows zero tolerance for unauthorized hacking by police

Responding to burgeoning reports of unauthorized hacking of phones by Israel Police officers, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar says anyone found to have violated suspects’ rights must be brought to justice.

“Law enforcement authorities must be very careful not to violate the rights of Israeli citizens and to do their jobs,” he says,

Sa’ar also notes the investigative committee set up by the attorney general to look into the claims, which mainly center on the Pegasus app by NSO Group.

He says that the panel’s purview is “also to make sure, by formulating and enforcing the correct directives, that such incidents do not recur.”

Israel Police chief visits UAE, in first

Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai poses with an unnamed Emirati police official in this undated handout photo. (Israel Police)

Kobi Shabtai becomes the first Israel Police Commissioner to visit the United Arab Emirates, according to a statement from police.

Shabtai meets with his counterparts in Abu Dhabi and Dubai in order to establish a relationship and begin cooperating on tackling crime in both countries, according to the statement.

The Israel Police will appoint a representative in Abu Dhabi to oversee the force’s activities in the UAE, Africa and Middle East, the statement says.

The statement includes a picture of Shabtai posing in a parking lot alongside an unnamed Emirati police official.

Ministers said to clash over Palestinian issue during cabinet meeting

During the cabinet meeting, a presentation from National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata reportedly triggers an argument between several ministers regarding the Palestinian issue that highlights the deep rifts between the right- and left-wing flanks of the coalition.

According to the Walla news site, whose report cites four ministers who were present at the meeting, Hulata in his presentation only mentions the Palestinians in passing, drawing criticism from Regional Cooperation Minister Issawi Frej of the left-wing Meretz party.

Frej, according to the report, asks Prime Minister Bennett why the government isn’t convening a joint economic panel with the Palestinians.

Bennett, in response, reportedly says, “All you want is meetings, meetings, meetings, all the time.”

His comments are said to be met with further grumbling from Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai (Labor) and Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg.

US says ‘not sending forces to start a war’ with Russia

The United States says it is not sending troops to start a war with Russia, after deploying 3,000 additional soldiers to Germany and Eastern Europe over the Ukraine standoff with Moscow.

US President Joe Biden “has been clear for months now that the United States is not sending forces to start a war or fight a war with Russia in Ukraine,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan tells Fox News.

“We have sent forces to Europe to defend NATO territory.”

Sullivan tells “Meet the Press” on NBC that “a military escalation and invasion of Ukraine could happen at any time.

“We believe that the Russians have put in place the capabilities to mount a significant military operation into Ukraine, and we have been working hard to prepare a response,” he says.

“President Biden has rallied our allies. He’s reinforced and reassured our partners on the eastern flank, he’s provided material support to the Ukrainians, and he’s offered the Russians a diplomatic path.”

President sends condolences to Moroccan king on death of boy Rayan in well

President Isaac Herzog sends condolences to King Mohammed VI of Morocco after the death of a young boy who fell down a well.

“On behalf of the people of Israel, I offered HM King Mohammed VI our heartfelt condolences over the tragic death of little Rayan,” Herzog says, according to a readout from his office.

“With the rest of the world, we were transfixed by the rescue operation and prayed for his safe return. Our hearts broke last night.”

Israel and Morocco reestablished diplomatic relations recently under the US-brokered Abraham Accords, after a two-decade freeze.

Israel sanctions Lebanese companies aiding Hezbollah missile project

Defense Minister Benny Gantz signs administrative orders to seize the assets of three Lebanese companies that Israel accuses of supplying materials to advance Hezbollah’s efforts to manufacture precision missiles.

“Hezbollah are endangering the citizens of Lebanon and the State of Lebanon. We will continue to offer humanitarian assistance to the citizens and act resolutely in the face of the Iranian precision project operating from the heart of Lebanon,” Gantz says in a statement from his office.

Hezbollah fighters hold their group’s flag as they stand in front of a statue of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and swear their oath of allegiance to him, during a ceremony to mark the second anniversary of his assassination, in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, on January 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

According to the statement, it is the second time defense official have issued such an order in recent months, joining a seizure order signed in August.

It names the three companies as TOUFALI, MOUBAYED and BARAKAT, which it says maintain ongoing trade with Hezbollah, focused on “machines, oils and ventilation systems” required for the terror group’s “production line and the precision project in particular.”

Israel alleges that Hezbollah, which already possesses many thousands of rockets aimed at Israeli population centers, has been endeavoring, with the help of its patron Iran, to manufacture more precise missiles in Lebanon.

Gantz’s announcement comes days after he came under criticism for saying that Israel had offered to assist the Lebanese Army several times in recent months.

Israel says African Union observer status would be in everyone’s interest

Israel, responding to the African Union’s decision earlier today to suspend the debate on accepting it as an observer, says giving it such a role “is a clear interest for us all – for Israel, for the African Union, and for the Union’s members.

“It will facilitate increased cooperation between Israel and African countries,” the Foreign Ministry says in a statement.

“Israel attaches great importance to expanding the dialogue and cooperation with the African Union in line with changes in the Middle East, and views it as an important expression of our shared activities for the continent’s next generation,” it says.

Kuwait bans film ‘Death on the Nile’ featuring Israeli actress Gal Gadot

Kuwait will ban a new film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s whodunnit “Death on the Nile” with a cast of Hollywood stars including Israeli actress Gal Gadot, authorities say.

The film, directed by and co-starring Kenneth Branagh, is due for release this month in the United States.

The story is one of the most famous works of British author Christie, dubbed the “Queen of Crime.”

But cinemagoers in Kuwait will not be able to watch it, information ministry spokeswoman Anouar Mourad tells AFP, confirming press reports.

According to Kuwait’s Al-Qabas newspaper, the decision was made following demands on social media for the film to be banned.

Social media users pointed to Gadot’s praise of the Israeli army and her criticism of the Palestinian terror group Hamas during the 2014 war in Gaza.

Gadot is best known for the lead role in the 2017 Hollywood blockbuster “Wonder Woman,” which was banned in some Arab countries.

She has frequently come under criticism on social media because she performed mandatory service in the Israeli army.

Kuwait is staunchly opposed to normalizing ties with Israel — unlike its Gulf neighbors the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which have signed peace deals with the Jewish state — and has long been a supporter of the Palestinian cause.

Cabinet approves NIS 155 million plan to prepare for massive wildfires

The cabinet approves a NIS 155 million ($48 million) national plan to prepare for massive fires as part a broader strategy for coping with the effects of climate change.

Put together by the Prime Minister’s Office and the ministries of public security and environmental protection, the plan provides for the creation of firebreaks to distance homes from adjacent woodlands and forests and stop fires from spreading.

It also includes allocations for improving coordination with the fire service’s airborne division, and a multi-year plan to strengthen the fire service in general.

The whole world is warming because of climate change, and fires pose a real danger to life,” Bennett says at the weekly cabinet meeting. “We are not waiting for the next disaster, but anticipating what needs to be done.”

Last summer, some 25,000 dunams (6,200 acres) of forest around Jerusalem went up in flames. At the height of the blaze, it was feared that Hadassah hospital at Ein Kerem might need to be evacuated. It took three days and the efforts of 204 firefighting crews, 20 planes, IDF rescue teams and help from Palestinian firefighters to fully extinguish the flames. People lost homes. Luckily, none lost their lives.

Conductor Barenboim clears schedule for surgery

Legendary conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim has cleared his schedule for the coming weeks to undergo surgery, Milan’s celebrated La Scala opera house says.

“Mr Barenboim is forced to suspend his activity in the coming weeks to undergo surgery,” the venue, where the 79-year-old was formerly principal guest conductor and musical director, says in a statement.

Argentina-born Barenboim has been acclaimed for a stellar career that saw him begin performing internationally as a pianist aged 10 then become a leading conductor.

He earned further renown when he co-created a foundation and orchestra to promote cooperation among young musicians from Israel and Arab nations.

Musical director and conductor Daniel Barenboim stands in the main concert hall of the newly renovated Staatsoper opera house in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Sept. 29, 2017. (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP)

Barenboim was to have performed a series of Beethoven sonatas on Tuesday as part of a series of concerts showcasing great pianists, but this will now be postponed to June 13.

Next Saturday the multi-Grammy Award winner was to have played with the Scala’s Philharmonia under the baton of Indian Zubin Mehta. A fresh date has yet to be arranged for that concert.

Barenboim has since 1992 been general music director of the Berlin State Opera and its Staatskapelle orchestra, where he is under contract through to 2027.

“I shall remain as long as I have the strength. Otherwise I shall leave. I do not wish to hang around as a relic of the past,” he told AFP last year.

In 2008 he took Palestinian citizenship to add to his other nationalities of Argentinian, Israeli and Spanish — using that occasion to describe the destinies of Israelis and Palestinians as “inextricably linked.”

Winner of Israel’s largest-ever lottery jackpot says the winning numbers emitted a light

An Israeli man who won the lottery to the tune of NIS 80 million ($25 million), the largest jackpot in the history of country, says it was his first time buying a ticket.

“I saw an ad on TV, as well as at the lottery stands, saying that the prize was very high, so I decided for the first time in my life to fill out a form,” he says.

“As soon as I saw the winning numbers they seemed familiar somehow. I felt a kind of light that I can’t explain. As soon as I saw the form I knew that I was holding in my hand a first-prize-winning form, but I had no idea if I’d be the sole winner or share the prize.”

The unnamed man arrived this morning at the offices of the Mifal HaPais national lottery company to collect his prize, after first checking in at work, like he does every day.

According to reports, he and his wife stayed up all night after learning that they had won and talked about what they would do with the money. They decided to first give gifts to their family.


Ukraine says diplomatic solution more likely than Russian attack

Ukraine’s presidency insists the chance of resolving soaring tensions with Russia through diplomacy remained greater than that of an attack, as the US warns that Moscow is stepping up preparations for an invasion.

“An honest assessment of the situation suggests that the chance of finding a diplomatic solution for de-escalation is still substantially higher than the threat of further escalation,” says presidency adviser Mykhailo Podolyak in a statement.

Podolyak says Russia has been conducting large-scale troop rotations, maneuvers and weapon deployments on a regular basis “to ensure constant massive psychological pressure” since massing forces at Ukraine’s border last spring.

“For our intelligence service and our armed forces, this Russian activity comes as absolutely no surprise,” he says.

Podolyak points out that Ukraine’s Western backers received “a significant amount” of their intelligence about Russian activities from Kyiv.

An Ukrainian serviceman and an armored personnel carrier near a front line position in the Luhansk area, eastern Ukraine, January 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

“How long will such Russian activity last and for what purpose is it maintained? Only the Kremlin can know the exact answer to this question,” he says.

“The task of both Ukraine and our partners is to be prepared for any scenario, and we are fulfilling this task 100 percent.”

The statement comes after Washington says its intelligence assessments show Moscow is stepping up moves toward a potential full-scale invasion, and has in place 70 percent of the forces it would need for such an attack.

Russia has assembled 110,000 troops along its border with Ukraine but US intelligence has not determined if President Vladimir Putin has actually decided to invade, US officials say.

Coalition to advance ‘citizenship law’ despite objection from Meretz

Ministers agree to advance a bid led by Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked to renew Israel’s so-called citizenship law, which prevents Palestinians who marry Israelis from living with their spouses in Israel.

The decision comes despite the opposition of the coalition’s left-wing Meretz party, whose leader, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, yesterday labeled the law “racist” and vowed to vote against the legislation to renew it.

The vote is seen as a crucial test for the diverse coalition, after it failed to pass an earlier version of the bill last year. While the right-wing parties in the opposition all support the legislation in principle, they voted against it at the time in order to embarrass the government.

Shaked says the law will come up for a Knesset vote later this week. Without Meretz’s support — and likely also without the support of the coalition’s Islamist Ra’am party — it will again require opposition votes to pass.

Arab Israeli truck driver lightly hurt in West Bank rock attack

A 40-year-old truck driver is lightly hurt by rocks hurled at his vehicle on Route 55 near Qalqilya in the West Bank, medics say.

According to Rescuers Without Borders, a Jewish emergency service operating in the West Bank, the rocks were thrown from a moving car.

The identity and nationality of the attackers isn’t immediately clear.

The organization says the victim is an Arab Israeli.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service says its medics are taking the man to the Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba with an injury to his face.

Netanyahu undergoes medical procedure

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu undergoes a procedure to have a stone removed from his bladder, according to a brief statement from his office.

The procedure, conducted at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital, is a success, and Netanyahu is expected to be released within hours.

Benjamin Netanyahu attends a plenum session in the Knesset, January 19, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

African Union suspends debate on Israel’s status – diplomat

The African Union has suspended a debate on whether to withdraw Israel’s accreditation, avoiding a vote that risked creating an unprecedented rift within the 55-member bloc, diplomats tell AFP.

“The Israel question has been suspended for now and instead there will be a committee set up to study the issue,” one of the diplomats says.

Top Iran official says nuke talks failing to achieve ‘balance in commitments’

Bennett’s comments come as Iran’s top security official says Washington and Tehran have so far failed to produce “balance” in their commitments during the Vienna talks aimed at restoring the nuclear deal.

“Despite limited progress in the #ViennaTalks, we are still far from achieving the necessary balance in the commitments of the parties,” Supreme National Security Council secretary Ali Shamkhani says in a Twitter post.

“Political decisions in #Washington are requirements for balance of commitments to reach a good agreement,” he adds.

Iran is engaged in negotiations with Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia directly and with the United States indirectly to revive the 2015 deal formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

After months of stalemate, progress has been made in recent weeks to revive the agreement that was supposed to prevent Iran from acquiring an atomic bomb, a goal it has always denied pursuing.

The US State Department on Friday said it was waiving sanctions on Iran’s civil nuclear program in a technical step necessary to return to the JCPOA.

The waiver allows other countries and companies to participate in Iran’s civil nuclear program without triggering US sanctions on them, in the name of promoting safety and non-proliferation.

Bennett: A nuclear deal won’t increase stability – or prevent Israeli attack

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett implies that Israel could launch a military strike against Iran even if the Islamic Republic and world powers revive their 2015 nuclear deal.

“The greatest threat against the State of Israel is Iran,” Bennett says at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. “As the government, we are responsible for dealing with the Iranian nuclear program and, of course, we are monitoring the Vienna talks.

“Our position is well-known and clear: An agreement – according to the apparent terms – will damage the ability to deal with the nuclear program. Anyone who thinks that an agreement will increase stability is mistaken,” he adds, according to a readout from his office. “It will temporarily delay enrichment but all of us in the region will pay a heavy, disproportionate price for it.”

Bennett accuses Iran of ramping up its belligerence in recent weeks — seemingly alluding to a strong of attacks by Tehran-aligned Yemeni rebels — despite its ongoing negotiations on returning to the nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA.

“That is how you conduct negotiations, Tehran-style,” he says.

“We are currently filling in gaps and building up Israel’s military strength for years and even decades to come,” Bennett adds.

“Israel will maintain freedom of action in any case, with or without an agreement,” he says, in a thinly veiled threat.

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