The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they happened.
More outlets are now reporting that the coalition will delay the first reading on several of the judicial overhaul bills to next week.
The security cabinet has approved legalizing nine illegal West Bank outposts “in response to the murderous terror attacks in Jerusalem.”
In a statement, ministers say the communities that will be legalized “have existed for many years, some for decades.
The outposts are Avigayil, Beit Hogla, Givat Harel, Givat Arnon, Mitzpe Yehuda, Malachei HaShalom, Asa’el, Sde Boaz, and Shaharit.
Ministers also agreed to move forward with new construction in existing settlements.
Channel 12 news cites a “very senior coalition source” as saying the bills on the agenda tomorrow — which make up a preliminary part of the government’s judicial overhaul plan — will be advanced from committee to their first reading on Monday, and the process will not be halted as President Herzog requested.
However, the source says the government will wait a week before bringing them to a vote in the plenum.
“If the heads of the opposition and Supreme Court president announce their agreement to hold discussions based on the president’s principles, they will find partners in the government with open hearts and willingness,” the source says.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid releases a statement in response to President Isaac Herzog’s speech urging compromise on judicial reform, which he calls “a proper framework.”
Lapid says as a condition for talks, the coalition must immediately halt its legislation push, which is due to come for initial votes tomorrow. He adds that any negotiations should be held at the President Residence’s “in the framework of a presidential committee.”
He also backs having the five principles that Herzog laid out serving as the basis for talks.
“Until then: the fight won’t stop, the protest won’t stop,” he says.
National Unity leader Benny Gantz and other members of his opposition party voice support for President Isaac Herzog’s call for dialogue on the government’s planned overhaul of the judiciary.
Gantz says National Unity wants talks “on a true reform that is not political” and maintains the judiciary’s independence.
He calls for any changes to be carried out for “the needs of the citizens and not for political schemes.”
National Unity MK Gideon Sa’ar, the former justice minister, says Herzog’s proposals are a “fair basis for dialogue.”
“The condition for honest and real dialogue is immediate halt of the legislation,” Sa’ar tweets.
Meanwhile, Histadrut labor federation chair Arnon Bar-David calls on “all Israeli citizens to unite behind the president’s words. The story of our life in the country we yearned for for 2,000 years was written in toil, sweat, pain and determination, but more than everything, it was enabled by our unity as a society. There are no winners and losers here. Let’s stop before the political rift tears Israeli society apart.”
Protest leaders laud “the president’s speech that came from the depths of his heart, as he understands the depth of the crisis a dictatorship will bring.”
They vow to continue to take action until the government “announces it is entirely removing the threat of destroying Zionism and democracy.”
A member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party lashes out at President Isaac Herzog for his speech urging a compromise to the government’s plans for upending the judicial system.
“Hypocrisy is the name of the game and we long finished taking part in it. Continue with the reform with all strength,” tweets Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi.
Herzog floats 5 principles as basis for judicial reform, pleads with coalition to delay its legislation
Referring to the ongoing protests against the proposed changes, Herzog calls the demonstrators “patriots who are utilizing the right to protest… and are completely committed to the fate of the nation and the country.”
“I feel, we all feel, that we are a moment before a confrontation, even a violent confrontation,” he says. “The powder keg is about to explode, and brother is about to raise his hand against brother.”
The external threats are bad enough, he says. Internal violence “of any type — and particular against public servants and representatives — is a red line that we must not cross.”
Turning to the government’s overhaul proposals, Herzog says the balance between the three branches of government is critical, that the Knesset is sovereign, and that reform and “changes can be completely legitimate.”
In a nod to critics of the judiciary, the president laments a “lack of diversity” in the courts, which he says “really disturbs” him, and says the planned shakeup “is the result of a [political] camp that feels that an imbalance has developed between the branches.”
“This pain felt by our brothers and sisters is real, and it’s a big mistake to reject or ignore it,” he says.
“On the other hand, I want to stress: the responsibility to listen, to feel pain… lies first and foremost with those who hold [power in] the institutions of government at this time,” he adds.
Herzog says the government’s package of changes in its current format “raises a deep concern of their potential for harm to the State of Israel’s democratic institutions.”
He goes on to hail the Supreme Court as “the pride of our country,” noting that “Israel’s courts and judges protect Israeli society and the state, truly, against crime, external [legal] attacks on IDF soldiers, against the loss of the principles of justice, law and morality, and the trampling of individual rights.” Says Herzog, “We are a state of the rule of law thanks to the professional, responsible, independent and autonomous judiciary.”
He notes that “millions of citizens here, alongside the Jews of the Diaspora and great supporters of Israel across the world — see the reform as a real threat to Israeli democracy.”
Herzog says he has met in recent weeks with figures on both sides of the debate and says he is convinced that it is possible to reach a compromise, before laying out a five-point plan to serve as the basis for negotiations.
The first is the imperative to legislate a “Basic Law: Legislation,” to set out the framework for all legislation, ordinary and Basic Laws, and thus to enable constitutional stability. “No more Basic Laws that sprout like mushrooms after the rain,” he urged.
This and all Basic Laws would be passed only with “wide agreement” and via four Knesset readings, rather than the usual three. There would be “no judicial oversight over a Basic Law legislated in that way.”
The Basic Law: Legislation would “protect the High Court’s right to judicial oversight” over non-basic laws, “via a bench and majority to be agreed upon.” It would also set out the terms by which the Knesset can override decisions by the court to strike down laws, “by means of a majority and a process that will be determined by dialogue and agreement.”
His second principle is to ease “the judicial burden” on judges, which he says Israelis are paying a price for.
The third is to bring greater efficiency to the judicial system and thus help increase public confidence in the courts, with Herzog saying he will ask Justice Minister Yariv Levin and Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut to reach an agreement “that will put an end to the endless delays of justice and insufferable foot-dragging.”
Fourth, he calls for the judicial appointments committee to be reconfigured so no side has an automatic majority, saying all branches of government will have equal representation on the panel, alongside public figures who will be appointed “with coordination and agreement” between the justice minister and Supreme Court president. The choice of judges “must be based on cooperation and agreement — not on capitulations and vetoes,” he said.
Finally, he warns that the judicial doctrine of “reasonableness” can be abused by the courts if not limited, while stressing that there is a place to apply it, as is currently the case, “in cases of extreme unreasonableness.” Citing his familiarity with the positions of the sides, he says he believes they can reach agreement on that as well.
He calls his five points the “basis for an agreement” and appeals to Hayut, Levin and Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee head Simcha Rothman, “with a request from the bottom of my heart,” to “start talking … and lower the flames,” claiming that “agreement can reached in a short time on the basis of the principles” he has set out.
He says the president’s residence is open to all, at all times, to advance the process.
He urges Rothman and the coalition: “Don’t bring the [current planned] legislation to a first reading,” as is planned for tomorrow, amid the current divisive background. “Weigh the principles I set out today as a basis for discussion before the first reading,” he implores.
Herzog says he will appear before the committee in person if needed to elaborate on his proposals.
He concludes by stressing he is issuing his proposals and his plea for dialogue for the sake of all Israelis, “for the sake of the Declaration of Independence which is the foundation of our existence,” and “for the sake of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”
President Isaac Herzog starts what his office has called “a special address to the nation,” saying that Israel is “in fateful days.”
Herzog says he has been working in recent weeks to seek a “broad agreement” on the government’s contentious proposals to overhaul the judiciary, adding that he has been urging the sides not to adopt a zero-sum approach.
“We will all lose, the State of Israel will lose,” if no consensual agreement is reached, the president says in the televised speech, which comes as the primetime nightly news broadcasts begin.
Noting a series of recent deadly terror attacks, Herzog says the family of one victim asked him “to do everything to stop the madness.”
He says the divide is no longer just a political crisis, warning that “we are on the verge of constitutional and social collapse.”
Former attorney general Avichai Mandelblit acknowledges in comments aired this evening that a lengthy investigation of Shas leader Aryeh Deri was carried out in poor fashion and that the defrocked cabinet member never agreed to bow out of political life as part of a plea bargain.
Deri, who is at the center of a tug-of-war between the government and judiciary, was convicted a year ago of wide-ranging tax offenses, following a probe that dated back to 2016. Despite the conviction, he was appointed as a minister in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet late last year, a move that the High Court struck down, kicking off a furious battle among allied lawmakers to pass legislation that will override the court and allow his return, part of a larger judicial overhaul.
In comments to Channel 12 news, Mandelblit says he regretted the way the investigation of Deri was handled.
“Justice for Deri was drawn out. I think there was a problem there with the investigation,” Mandelblit says.
“The law enforcement system did not excel in this case,” he adds.
The comments were made as part of a wide-ranging interview Mandelblit granted Channel 12, the lion’s share of which was broadcast on Thursday night. In it, he warned the government’s planned judicial reform was tantamount to “regime change” and would destroy the Israeli legal system.
The Israel Defense Forces and US Central Command launch a joint drill today.
The IDF says the exercise, dubbed Juniper Falcon, will focus on air defense, cyber security, intelligence, and logistics.
The drill follows last month’s major Juniper Oak drill.
DAMASCUS, Syria — Syrian President Bashar Assad thanked the United Arab Emirates for its emergency response and tens of millions pledged in aid to the quake-hit country, the presidency says.
“The UAE was among the first countries that stood with Syria and sent huge relief and humanitarian aid and search and rescue teams,” Assad says during a meeting in Damascus with Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.
Nahyan arrived in Syria today, six days after a devastating earthquake struck Turkey and Syria, killing more than 33,000 people in total, including over 3,500 in Syria.
The minister also toured quake-hit areas in western Syria, according to UAE’s official news agency, WAM.
A Syrian pro-regime newspaper shared images of the Emirati minister in the coastal city of Jableh, among the worst hit by the quake and where the Emirati search and rescue team has been based since Friday.
The minister’s visit is the first by a senior Gulf official since the 7.8-magnitude quake hit.
Nahyan says the UAE remains “committed to standing by the brotherly people of Syria and providing the required support and assistance,” according to WAM.
The UAE minister last visited Damascus in January, when he also met Assad, on a trip that signaled warming ties with war-torn Syria after years of strained relations.
The UAE pledged some $13.6 million to Syria after the disaster before announcing another $50 million in assistance.
The oil-rich Gulf nation has dispatched planes to Turkey and Syria with emergency aid, food, medical supplies, and rescue teams.
TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian authorities have released journalist Elnaz Mohammadi from the Hammihan newspaper on bail one week after her arrest, media reports say, but her sister, also a reporter, remains in custody.
Elnaz Mohammadi was detained after going to the prosecutor’s office “for an explanation,” but has since been “released from Evin prison on bail,” the reformist daily Hammihan reports today.
Her sister Elahe Mohammadi was arrested on September 29 after reporting for Hammihan from the funeral of Mahsa Amini, and remains in custody.
Iran has witnessed nationwide protests since the September 16 death in custody of Amini, a 22-year-old ethnic Kurd, who had been arrested for an alleged breach of strict dress rules for women.
The funeral procession in Amini’s hometown of Saqez in Kurdistan province turned into one of the first protest actions, followed by more than four months of unrest.
Elahe Mohammadi was charged with “propaganda against the system and conspiracy to act against national security.”
— HRANA English (@HRANA_English) February 5, 2023
Authorities say hundreds of people, including dozens of security personnel, have been killed during protests.
Thousands of Iranians, including public figures, journalists, and lawyers have been arrested.
Ten of the journalists arrested over the protests are still in custody, Tehran Journalists Association said.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei agreed last week to pardon or commute the sentences of a “significant number” of convicts, some of whom were detained during the protests, on the occasion of the 44th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The high-level security cabinet is currently deliberating plans to advance thousands of new housing units in the West Bank and to legalize a number of wildcat settlements, according to Hebrew media reports.
Education Minister Yoav Kisch says he remains in control of external programming at schools, insisting far-right Deputy Minister Avi Maoz has no role in his ministry.
“A thousand stories about Avi Maoz won’t help. He has no authority in the Education Ministry,” Kisch says during a briefing with reporters.
Maoz was due to be given powers over the Education Ministry unit responsible for approving and funding external programming vendors as part of the coalition deal between his anti-LGBTQ Noam party and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, but the move has stalled since the government’s formation.
Israeli forces foiled an attempt to smuggle NIS 50 million ($14 million) worth of drugs into Israel from Egypt earlier this month, the military and police say.
According to the Israel Defense Forces and Israel Police, on February 5, soldiers operating surveillance cameras spotted a suspected drug courier driving an all-terrain vehicle close to the southern part of the border fence with Egypt.
Troops and officers dispatched the scene chased the man, who crashed the ATV near the Ramon crater cliffs.
The suspected courier, a Bedouin Israeli man from the Negev desert in his 30s, was detained by the forces, who found 120 kilograms of drugs in the ATV.
The drugs include 92 kilograms of heroin and cocaine, and 28 kilograms of hashish, police say, calling the bust “unprecedented.”
The Israel Defense Forces says the military’s search and rescue delegation to southern Turkey following the devastating earthquake is expected to wrap up operations and return to Israel in the coming days.
The teams managed to rescue 19 Turkish civilians from under the rubble.
Even though experts say trapped people could survive for a week or more, the chances of finding survivors in the freezing temperatures are dimming.
Meanwhile, the IDF will continue to operate a field hospital in the area to treat those wounded in the quake.
BEIRUT — Lebanon’s powerful Shiite terror organization Hezbollah sends a convoy of 23 trucks carrying food and medical aid to Syria’s quake-stricken province of Latakia, a stronghold of the group’s allies.
“This the moment of support, the moment of assistance,” senior Hezbollah official Hashem Safieddine tells reporters in Lebanon’s capital Beirut.
It comes six days after a devastating earthquake struck Turkey and Syria, killing more than 33,000 people in total, including over 3,500 in Syria.
Latakia, located in Syria’s northwestern region, is a stronghold for Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The Iran-backed Hezbollah is a key ally of Assad’s regime and has openly been fighting alongside his forces since April 2013.
Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian conflict has helped tip the scales in favor of Assad on many fronts.
Adnan Moqadem, general director of civil defense in Hezbollah’s health authority, says this first convoy “will be followed by others.”
The convoy, carrying “food, health and household supplies,” will be delivered to the Red Crescent and Syrian officials, Moqadem says.
The trucks carries banners marked with both the Syrian flag and that of Hezbollah.
The Ministerial Committee for Legislation gives its stamp of approval to a bill aimed at clearing the way for convicted Shas leader Aryeh Deri’s return as minister after his appointment was recently disqualified by the High Court of Justice, despite Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara coming out against the proposal.
The bill would amend one of Israel’s quasi-constitutional Basic Laws to prevent judicial review over the appointment of government ministers. In a letter sent last night to Justice Minister Yariv Levin, two of Baharav-Miara’s deputies warned that the measure’s passage into law could lead the High Court to take the unprecedented move of intervening against a Basic Law.
The legislation voted on today has been dubbed “the second Deri bill,” after the coalition passed a law following the November 1 election aimed at ensuring Deri’s return as minister following his most recent conviction. Though the law was upheld, the High Court still struck down his appointment.
The heads of several opposition factions announce they will give a joint press conference tomorrow at the Knesset, where the coalition is due to begin holding votes on parts of its proposals to radically shakeup the judiciary.
“This is a time of emergency. We won’t let the State of Israel be destroyed,” the leaders of Yesh Atid, National Unity, Yisrael Beytenu and Labor say in a statement.
A civil worker strike has been called for tomorrow to protest the government’s plans, with demonstrators set to rally in Jerusalem outside the Knesset.
ISTANBUL — The death toll from a catastrophic earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria climbs to 33,000.
Officials and medics say 29,605 people have died in Turkey and 3,574 in Syria from Monday’s 7.8-magnitude tremor, bringing the confirmed total to 33,179.
The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry says a teenager has died as a result of wounds sustained during clashes with Israeli troops in Jenin earlier.
The ministry identifies the teen as 14-year-old Qusai Radwan Waked.
Two other Palestinians were seriously hurt during the clashes.
It was not clear to what extent the teen was participating in the clashes, but the IDF said troops had returned fire at gunmen who were shooting at them as they were arresting a wanted terror operative.
The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approves the passage of a bill to repeal clauses of the 2005 Disengagement Law, which led to the evacuation of four settlements in the northern West Bank along with all the Israeli settlements in Gaza.
The bill is key to the government’s goal of legalizing the wildcat settlement outpost of Homesh and a yeshiva that has been built there, which activists have tried repeated to re-establish since 2005.
The outpost, inhabited by several dozen yeshiva students and teachers, is built on private Palestinian land and is one of the settlements evacuated under the Disengagement Law.
The legislation was submitted by Likud MK Yuli Edelstein, who heads the high-level Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, with the strong backing of Settlements and National Missions Minister Orit Strock. It will now move to the Knesset for a preliminary reading in the plenum on Wednesday.
The left-wing Yesh Din organization condemns the approval of the bill, saying it is designed to “make the theft of land at Homesh kosher,” and adds that “canceling the Disengagement Law won’t change the status of the land as private land and won’t legalize the outpost.”
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the ultra-nationalist Religious Zionism party, cheers the bill’s approval, calling it “an important day on which the government of Israel is moving the ship [forward] and supporting settlement.”
Eyal Besserglick is dropping out of the race to be the Israel Bar Association’s next leader after facing scrutiny over revelations that he charged the family of a murder victim over half a million shekels for representing them, before later agreeing to refund the bulk of the legal fees.
Police say officers have detained a Palestinian man near the northern Israeli town of Ahihud, who is suspected of planning a terror attack.
According to law enforcement officials, police were tipped off about the 26-year-old suspect from the Palestinian city of Tulkarem, and began scans in the area.
He was found in the nearby Ahihud Forest, and has been transferred to the Shin Bet for further questioning.
Several dozen settlers are removed from an illegal outpost in the northern West Bank by Border Police and Civil Administration forces, after the activists took up residence there.
The evacuation is the latest in a series of similar incidents in which wildcat settler outposts have been removed by security forces, despite the pro-settlements agenda of much of the current coalition.
The outpost, dubbed Gofna, was first established in July last year during a large campaign to set up several new settlements, but was evacuated by security personnel almost immediately.
According to settler activists, several buildings — including some made of unsecured cinderblocks — were built at the site in recent days and last night six families took up residence there.
Settlers allege the security forces acted violently during the evacuation, but the Civil Administration says the activists sought to physically prevent officers from removing them and demolishing the structures at the site. It adds that no arrests were made during the operation.
A delegation from the United Hatzalah emergency response organization to Turkey is cutting short its mission and returning to Israel early over security concerns, the group says.
United Hatzalah sent a group of some 40 volunteers, mostly medical professionals, who assisted in the rescue efforts in southern Turkey, specifically in Marash, one of the cities hit hardest by last week’s earthquakes. The delegation was scheduled to return after 10 days, but decided to come back to Israel early because of a “concrete and immediate threat.”
A spokesperson for the organization says there were two main concerns driving the decision: proximity to the Syrian border and the city of Gaziantep, which has seen Islamic State activity over the years, and growing unrest among Turkish citizens over the government’s poor response to the earthquake.
“We knew that there was a certain level of risk in sending our team to this area of Turkey, which is close to the Syrian border, but we took the necessary steps in order to mitigate the threat for the sake of our lifesaving mission. Unfortunately, we have just received intelligence of a concrete and immediate threat on the Israeli delegation and we have to put the security of our personnel first,” says Dovi Maisel, the vice president of operations for the organization.
A United Hatzalah spokesperson says residents of Marash and the surrounding area, where upwards of 10,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the tremors, are growing increasingly frustrated with the government’s handling of the earthquakes — particularly a decision to rapidly bury victims in mass graves — and there are concerns that this may result in violence.
“There were threats against different international delegations to kidnap people and hold them ransom so the government would not be able to fulfill its plan. Not just the Israeli team is wrapping up, but a lot of other teams have started to wrap up because of this as well, because of the way that the locals are taking the government message,” the spokesperson says.
President Isaac Herzog will deliver what his office bills as “a special address to the nation” at 8 p.m.
A statement from the President’s Residence doesn’t further elaborate on Herzog’s planned speech, but it comes amid an increasingly fractious debate over the government push to enact far-reaching changes to the judicial system.
Herzog has urged the sides to hold a dialogue on the proposed overhaul, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of his government insist they are open to, though they have also pledged not to slow the legislative effort.
Herzog will be speaking a day before the coalition is planning to bring parts of the overhaul legislation to the Knesset for the first of its three readings, and with protest organizers urging opponents of the legislation to join a nationwide strike tomorrow.
The military confirms that Israeli troops arrested Jabril Zubeidi during an operation in Jenin today.
In a joint statement with the Border Police and Shin Bet, the Israel Defense Forces says Zubeidi turned himself over to undercover officers and soldiers who carried out the daytime raid. The statement describes Zubeidi as a local operative with the Fatah-linked Tanzim terror group and says he’s been involved in attacks on Israel forces.
It alleges he also helped plan attacks and cites his suspected involvement in the snatching of an Israeli Druze teenager’s body after he was killed in a car crash. The remains were ultimately returned.
The IDF says Israeli soldiers returned fire after being shot at in Jenin, and also had explosives and rocks hurled toward them. The military adds that troops found ammunition in a car while carrying out searches.
It also says it’s aware of Palestinian reports of injuries, as the PA’s health ministry says three people were seriously hurt by Israeli fire. No Israeli forces were wounded.
הסתיימה הפעולה בג׳נין. ג׳בריל זביידי, אחיו של זכרייא נעצר לאחר ״סיר לחץ״ על המבנה בו שהה. לפלסטינים 3 מחבלים פצועים בהם שניים קשה. אין נפגעים לכוחות צהל ומגב. pic.twitter.com/iEjFbqGjPe
— Or Heller אור הלר (@OrHeller) February 12, 2023
CAIRO — Dozens of leaders and senior officials from Arab and Islamic countries condemn recent Israeli actions in Jerusalem and the West Bank, where violence has surged between Israel and the Palestinians.
The meeting in Cairo is hosted by the Arab League and attended by President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi of Egypt, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas along with many foreign ministers and senior officials.
Calling Jerusalem “the backbone of the Palestinian cause,” Sissi warns of dire repercussions of any Israeli move to change the status quo of the holy site, saying thos would “negatively impact” future negotiations to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
He says such measures would impede the long-sought two-state solution to the conflict, which would leave “both parties and the whole Middle East with difficult and grave options.”
Sissi, whose country was the first Arab nation to establish diplomatic ties with Israel, calls on the international community to “reinforce the two-state solution and create conducive conditions for the resumption of the peace process.”
The mother of two young boys who were killed in a terror attack on Friday says their father, who was also hurt in the car-ramming in Jerusalem, still doesn’t know what happened.
Yaakov Yisrael Paley, 6, was buried shortly after the attack, while his older brother, 8-year-old Asher Menahem Paley, died yesterday of his wounds. Their brother Moshie, 10, was lightly hurt and released from the hospital over the weekend and their father, 42, remains hospitalized in moderate condition.
“We pray that he’ll wake up healthy and that God will give him the strength to face the new reality,” the mother, Dvora, tells reporters as she marks the traditional mourning period. “What will happen to our two sweet ones?”
“They were happy, good children who liked to help,” she adds.
After a rocket fired by Gaza-based terrorists last night went unanswered, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells government ministers that Israel will respond “at the right time,” the Kan public broadcaster reports.
According to the report, Netanyahu made the remark in response to criticism from far-right Otzma Yehudit ministers Yitzhak Wasserlauf and Amichai Eliyahu, who demanded a response to the rocket attack.
Daytime gun battles are reported in Jenin, with Israeli forces clashing with Palestinians as they enter the northern West Bank city.
According to reports, the Israeli troops were seeking to arrest Jibril Zubeidi, the brother of imprisoned terror chief Zakaria Zubeidi.
Footage on social media shows a column of armored Israeli vehicles in Jenin.
There is no immediate comment from the Israel Defense Forces.
— גלצ (@GLZRadio) February 12, 2023
ANTAKYA, Turkey — As rescuers still pull a lucky few from the rubble six days after a pair of earthquakes devastated southeast Turkey and northern Syria, Turkish officials detain or issue arrest warrants for some 130 people allegedly involved in the construction of buildings that toppled down and crushed their occupants.
The death toll from Monday’s quakes stood at 28,191 — with another 80,000-plus injured — as of this morning and was certain to rise as bodies kept emerging.
As despair also bred rage at the agonizingly slow rescue efforts, the focus has turned to who was to blame for not better preparing people in the earthquake-prone region that includes an area of Syria that was already suffering from years of civil war.
Even though Turkey has, on paper, construction codes that meet current earthquake-engineering standards, they are too rarely enforced, explaining why thousands of buildings slumped onto their side or pancaked downward onto residents.
Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay says that warrants have been issued for the detention of 131 people suspected to being responsible for collapsed buildings.
Turkey’s justice minister has vowed to punish anyone responsible, and prosecutors have begun gathering samples of buildings for evidence on materials used in constructions. The quakes were powerful, but victims, experts and people across Turkey are blaming bad construction for multiplying the devastation.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says the PA will ask the United Nations this week to grant full membership to the “State of Palestine.”
The comments, which Abbas makes during a meeting a meeting on Jerusalem held at the Arab League’s headquarters in Cairo, come as the US has urged both Israel and the Palestinians to refrain from unilateral moves amid a recent spike in violence that has included a number of deadly terror attacks on Israelis and gun battles between IDF troops and Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank.
Abbas says the Palestinians will urge the UN to call on Israel to halt unilateral actions, specifically citing settlement construction, and to “adhere to the signed agreements and resolutions of international legitimacy,” according to a statement carried by the PA’s official Wafa news agency.
“Supporting Jerusalem and strengthening the steadfastness of those staying there and in its environs is a religious duty and a humanitarian and national imperative,” he is quoted as saying.
He continues: “The battle raging over Jerusalem did not only begin on the day of its occupation in 1967, but several decades prior to that, and even before the Balfour Declaration which was issued by the colonial powers, led by Britain and America.”
Abbas claims the 1917 declaration, in which Britain’s government backed the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel, was aimed at “getting rid of the Jews in Europe and establishing the so-called Jewish national home in Palestine, to be an outpost to safeguard the interests of these colonial countries.”
“Just as our people rejected the Balfour Declaration and its results, we also rejected all attempts to liquidate our cause or falsify the facts about it,” he says.
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