The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they unfolded.
Polish press raps prime minister over Holocaust remark
Commentators in Poland are scathing over remarks made by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki about “Jewish perpetrators” of the Holocaust which drew Israel’s fury and exacerbated a spat with the Jewish state.
The prime minister “should have been putting out the fire in Polish-Israeli ties but instead of using water, he used petrol,” writes the liberal Gazeta Wyborcza daily in an article headlined “Political bungling.”
“Who, according to the prime minister, were these ‘Jewish perpetrators’?” it asks.
“Was he perhaps thinking of the Sonderkommando at Auschwitz — Jews who were selected to serve in the gas chambers and the crematoria? Or maybe he was thinking about the Jewish police service in the ghettos?
“Or maybe he meant the members of Judenrat, the councils set up within these same ghettos and charged with being a contact point with the Germans?” it says.
The dispute arose as Morawiecki tried to defend Poland’s new and controversial Holocaust law but ended up coming under fire after he said there were “Jewish perpetrators” as well as Polish ones.
His remark fueled an already seething diplomatic row with Israel, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoning him on Sunday to say his comments were “unacceptable” and tantamount to denying the Holocaust.
Egypt says 3 troops killed in anti-jihadist operation in Sinai
Egypt’s military says three troops, including an officer, were killed in restive Sinai in fighting with militants.
They are the first casualties Egypt has announced from an offensive Cairo launched on February 9.
Military spokesman Tamer al-Rifai says two other officers and a conscript were wounded in the fighting, part of the sweep aiming to end a years-long insurgency by Islamic militants.
He says four militants were also killed.
The operation covers north and central Sinai and parts of Egypt’s Nile Delta and the Western Desert, along the porous border with Libya. It involves land, sea and air forces, and the army claims to have destroyed hundreds of targets and killed dozens of fighters.
The army’s figures cannot be independently confirmed as journalists are banned from the area.
IS ambushes Iraqi Shiite-led force, killing 27 fighters
Islamic State militants ambushed a group of Iraq’s Shiite-led paramilitary fighters, killing at least 27, officials say, underlining the extremist group’s capabilities of launching large-scale attacks two months after Baghdad declared victory over IS in all of Iraq.
The Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella group of mostly Shiite militias, says in a statement that the attack took place in the al-Saadounya area, southwest of the northern city of Kirkuk, when the paramilitaries were conducting overnight raids.
The attackers were disguised in army uniforms and pretended to man a fake checkpoint, the statement says, adding that ensuing clashes lasted for at least two hours and that some of the militants were killed while others fled the area.
Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, a spokesman for Iraqi military, blamed IS “sleeper cells” and says Iraqi forces were searching the area to find the perpetrators.
IS claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement on its Aamaq news agency.
Karim al-Nouri, a PMF spokesman, describes the attack as a “heinous crime” and calls for thorough scrutiny for those returning to their liberated areas.
Labor chief denies involvement in latest graft scandal
Labor party chairman Avi Gabbay, a former Bezeq telecom CEO, says the graft case involving the company he formerly headed causes him “deep sorrow,” but denies involvement.
Police suspect that Shaul Elovitch, owner of the Walla news site and the controlling shareholder of the Bezeq communications company, swayed coverage of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Walla in exchange for the Communications Ministry enacting policies potentially worth hundreds of millions of shekels for Elovitch.
Several senior Bezeq officials and confidants of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been arrested in the case.
“The company employees are very dear to me and when I hear about this case and those that preceded it, I feel very deep sorrow for them,” says Gabbay.
He says the incidents in the case took place in 2015-2016, while he left in 2013.
“I had no influence over the sister companies,” says Gabbay, referring, among others, to the Walla news site.
He says he was aware that and Elovitch “were friends” but says he knew nothing beyond that.
Gabbay also reprimands Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid for meeting with Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan while finance minister, saying “it shouldn’t have happened.”
“We will uproot the phenomenon of billionaire friends who heap presents on the leadership,” he vows.
— Marissa Newman
Lapid: Netanyahu must ‘step aside’ temporarily to handle graft probes
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid says that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shouldn’t have to resign over police recommendations to indict him for a series of corruption charges including bribery, but says he must “step aside” temporarily in order to fight his legal battles.
Speaking at the Conference of Presidents’ of Major Jewish Organizations and his Likud faction meeting in the Knesset just days after police recommended charges against the prime minister in two separate graft probes, Lapid proposes a scenario that would see Netanyahu take a temporary leave of absence until the allegations against him have been “resolved.”
“We don’t even have to go to elections, they can put in somebody as temporary prime minister from Likud as has been done before, until this is resolved,” Lapid tells the Jewish leaders.
“Being the prime minister of Israel is an incredibly difficult job, maybe the second hardest in the world after the American president, and you need to be a hundred percent in it. We need a prime minister who is focused on this,” the opposition party leader adds.
Later in the Knesset, Lapid slams Likud leaders for attacking him for giving testimony in one of the cases against Netanyahu.
“The investigations are complicated but there is simple conclusion: There is right and there is wrong, there are those who are right and those who are wrong. There are those who are corrupt and there are those who are clean,” he says.
— Raoul Wootliff
Liberman says IDF destroyed Gaza ‘terror tunnel’ last night
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman says the Israeli army destroyed a “terror tunnel” in Gaza near a border crossing with Israel.
“Last night we destroyed a terror tunnel near Kerem Shalom,” says Liberman.
Recent flareups on both the northern and southern borders prove that the IDF “is ready for incidents, with no warning,” says Liberman at the weekly Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting.
“You can go on with your routine,” he tells residents of the north and south.
The defense minister is also reviving his call for the death penalty for terrorists, saying he hopes his proposed legislation — which cleared a preliminary reading in the plenum — will soon be brought to a security cabinet meeting to advance it further.
He reads out a judge’s minority opinion in a court case regarding the Palestinian killer of the Salomon family in the Halamish settlement, seeking capital punishment.
“This was a minority opinion in court but is the majority opinion in the public,” he says.
“We expect and demand this issue be brought to the [security] cabinet,” adds Liberman. “We very much hope it will be soon.”
— Marissa Newman
Israeli wanted for murder in Germany arrested in Ashlekon
Police arrest a 34-year-old Israeli man wanted in Germany for robbery and murder.
The unnamed man is arrested in the southern city of Ashkelon at the request of the German government, which is seeking his extradition.
German authorities say the Israeli man, who has served time in prison, was involved in a string of home robberies in the Baden-Wuerttemberg area at the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018.
They say he and another unnamed suspect broke into a local home on January 6 with the intent to rob it. When they discovered the 90-year-old homeowner and her son were at home, they beat and bound them both.
The two then stole the woman’s jewelry before fleeing the scene.
Her son, 60, was rushed to the hospital with a head injury but was pronounced dead shortly after.
The suspect is scheduled to appear before the Jerusalem District court tomorrow for a remand hearing.
Iranian rescuers find wreckage from plane crash
Iranian search and rescue teams reach the site of a plane crash that authorities say killed all 65 people on board, Iran’s Press TV reports.
The Aseman Airlines ATR-72, a twin-engine turboprop used for short-distance regional flying, went down on yesterday in foggy weather, crashing into Mount Dena in a remote area of southern Iran. The airliner said all on board Flight EP3704 were killed, including six crew members.
The crash of the aircraft, brought back into service only months ago after being grounded for seven years, was yet another fatal aviation disaster for Iran, which for years was barred from buying necessary airplane parts due to Western sanctions over its contested nuclear program.
— Press TV (@PressTV) February 19, 2018
Press TV says search teams reached the crash site before dawn this morning. The station says the weather had improved, though it was still windy.
The TV broadcast footage of a helicopter joining the search and showed ambulances and rescue vehicles preparing to reach the site on Mount Dena, which is about 4,400 meters (14,400 feet) tall. The site is reportedly at a height of 3,500 meters (11,500 feet).
Israeli gas company announces $15b export deal with Egypt
Israeli energy company Delek Drilling announces a $15 billion deal to supply natural gas to Egypt.
Delek and its US partner, Noble Energy, sign a deal to sell a total of 64 billion cubic meters of gas over a 10-year period to Egyptian company Dolphinus Holdings.
Yossi Abu, chief executive of Delek Drilling, says in an interview that the deal is the largest-ever export agreement for Israel’s nascent natural gas industry. He calls it “great news” for both countries.
He says he expects most of the gas to be used for Egypt’s domestic market. But he says it could help pave the way toward turning Egypt into an export hub for Israeli gas.
The gas is expected to start flowing next year.
Netanyahu ally compares PM’s graft probes to Rabin’s murder
Likud MK and Netanyahu ally Miki Zohar is comparing the ongoing corruption investigations into the prime minister to the 1995 assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.
Zohar says the police probes into Netanyahu amount to “political murder,” and says the prime minister is the victim of an attempted putsch.
“Yes, I am comparing Rabin’s murder to what’s being done to the prime minister,” Zohar says in an interview on Radio Haifa. “We are witnessing a political murder which involves political persecution.
“With Rabin, a terrible murderer came, and removed him from office by taking his life, in an undemocratic, despicable way, which landed him in prison for life,” he says. “With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, apart from taking his life, everything is being done to remove him from office, and therefore it’s no less grave in my eyes.”
“Police are biased and not objective,” Zohar adds. “I have a theory that says that a veteran of the [police anti-corruption unit] Lahav 433 is colluding with Yair Lapid to overthrow Netanyahu in a undemocratic way.”
Activists urge Ethiopian Airlines not to deport African migrants
Dozens of human rights activists rally outside Ethiopian Airlines’ Tel Aviv headquarters, urging the carrier not to deport African migrants under a controversial new legislation.
The activists hold up signs and banners calling on the company to “open its eyes” and “stop the deportation flights.”
There are approximately 38,000 African migrants and asylum seekers in Israel, according to the Interior Ministry. About 72 percent are Eritrean and 20% are Sudanese. A law approved by the Knesset in December stipulates that the Interior Ministry will deport asylum seekers to unnamed countries widely thought to be Rwanda and Uganda starting in March.
Syria bombardment of rebel enclave kills 18 civilians, monitor says
Heavy Syrian regime bombardment of rebel-held Eastern Ghouta kills at least 18 civilians today, a monitor says, as government forces appeared to prepare for a ground assault.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says air strikes battered the town of Hammuriyeh in Eastern Ghouta, leaving nine civilians dead.
Another nine, including a woman, were killed in air raids, artillery fire, and rockets that hit elsewhere in the enclave.
“The regime is bombing Eastern Ghouta to pave the way for a ground offensive,” says Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
Held by rebels since 2012, Eastern Ghouta is now the last opposition-controlled pocket around Damascus.
Bill allowing anyone to refuse to work on Shabbat advances in Knesset
The Knesset Finance committee approves a bill that would extend the right to refuse to work on Shabbat to all employees, without fear of being penalized.
Currently, religious Jews can be exempt from working on Saturdays without being fired if they provide a legal document attesting to their religious observance.
The bill proposed by Yesh Atid MK Aliza Lavie and Likud MK Miki Zohar will have to pass two more Knesset readings before becoming law.
Turkey renames US embassy street after Syria offensive
Turkish authorities rename a street where the US embassy sits on after Turkey’s military offensive in Syria that had led to tensions between the allies.
Ankara municipal workers earlier today took down the sign for Nevzat Tandogan Street and replaced it with one that reads “Olive Branch Street.”
Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch last month to drive a Syrian Kurdish militia out of northwest Syria. The militia group is a major US ally in fighting the Islamic State group. Turkey regards them as “terrorists.”
The US State Department has said that it’s up to Turkish authorities to decide on street names.
In November, Turkey renamed the street where the United Arab Emirates has its embassy after a long-dead Ottoman military commander following a disputed tweet.
Icelandic bishop says circumcision ban will ‘criminalize’ Jewish, Muslim life
The bishop of Iceland says the country’s proposed ban on circumcision would effectively criminalize both Jewish and Muslim religious practice in the Scandinavian country.
“The danger that arises, if this bill becomes law, is that Judaism and Islam will become criminalized religions, and that individuals who subscribe to these faiths will be banned in this country and unwelcome,” Bishop Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir says in a statement according to the Reykjavik Grapevine. “We must avoid all such forms of extremism.”
Earlier this month, Icelandic lawmakers from four political parties introduced a bill in parliament that would ban the nonmedical circumcision of boys younger than 18 and impose imprisonment of up to six years on offenders.
Separately, Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the president of the Conference of European Rabbis, also expresses “extreme” concern about the proposed legislation.
“Whilst the Jewish population in Iceland is small, we cannot ignore the dangerous precedent this sets within Europe and the implications it has on Jews’ ability to carry out our religion in an open and free manner,” he says in a statement to The Independent.
Delivering aid to Gaza, Qatari envoy says both Israel and Hamas want calm
A Qatari envoy said Monday that both Israel and Gaza militants want to contain cross-border violence that has flared in recent days, as he detailed a new emergency fund to aid the Hamas-run territory.
“We confirm through our relationship with the two sides that they are not interested in escalation or engaging in a confrontation that could ignite the entire region,” the Qatari envoy, Mohammed al-Emadi, tells reporters in Gaza City.
Al-Emadi, whose country maintains contacts with the Hamas terror group and has hosted its leaders, coordinates Qatar’s relief and reconstruction projects in Gaza. At the press conference, al-Emadi announces details of a $9 million emergency fund for addressing fuel and medicine shortages in the Strip.
The Qatari grant includes $2 million in medical supplies and $500,000 for fuel to power backup generators in Gaza’s public health centers, enough to keep them running for a month.
Trucks loaded with the supplies and decorated with Qatari flags and posters of the oil-rich sheikhdom’s rulers could be seen outside Gaza City’s main Shifa hospital this afternoon, where al-Emadi and UN officials spoke.
— with AP
Toll in Syria bombardment of rebel enclave rises to 44, monitor says
A barrage of Syrian airstrikes, rocket fire and artillery on a rebel-held enclave outside the capital on Monday killed 44 civilians, a monitor says in an updated toll.
Four children were among the dead in the heavy bombardment on Eastern Ghouta, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
— The White Helmets (@SyriaCivilDef) February 19, 2018
Netanyahu urges visiting NFL players to ‘fight’ for Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls on seven NFL players visiting Israel to use their influence to garner additional support for the Jewish state, at a meeting in his Jerusalem office.
“All of you are gladiators and you have an enormous following. Israel is fighting in the arena, in the battle for truth. I think the most important part of your visit is that, having seen the truth, you can now fight for it,” Netanyahu tells the players.
“I appreciate the goodwill and support and, I’m sure, determination to spread the word,” he adds.
Two players — Jewish brothers Mitchell and Geoff Schwartz — present the prime minister with two jerseys — one red, one blue — each with his nickname, Bibi, written on the back.
At the meeting, Atlanta Falcon Vic Beasley also presents Environmental Protection and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin with a jersey of his own, though his name was accidentally misspelled “Elkins,” leading some in the room to joke that it was intentional, meant to signify that there should be more of him.
Sitting down with them, Netanyahu regales the players with the story of his first NFL game, when he was a young diplomat in Washington, DC, in the 1980s.
“I started out sitting like this” — he leans back, crosses his arms — “but by the end of the game I was standing and screaming,” he says, waving his fists in the air for emphasis.
The NFL players’ trip was organized by a group called American Voices in Israel, which brings actors, athletes and public figures to Israel in an attempt to get them to see the country in a positive light.
In addition to Beasley and the Schwartzes, this year’s trip was attended by Avery Williamson from the Tennessee Titans, Austin Seferian-Jenkins from the New York Jets, Chris Harris Jr. from the Denver Broncos and Josh Norman from Washington, DC’s team.
— Judah Ari Gross
Bezeq owner denies wrongdoing in latest Netanyahu graft scandal
Shaul Elovitch, the owner of the Walla news site and the controlling shareholder of the Bezeq communications company, denies the existence of a quid pro quo deal with Netanyahu that would have seen the prime minister granted positive media coverage.
“Shaul Elovitch categorically denies the suspicions against him,” a statement says. “We urge patience and not to rush to conclusions.”
“We are confident that when things become clear, it will be possible to see that no offense has been committed,” it says.
Third soldier injured in Route 6 crash dies of injures
A third IDF soldier injured in a deadly crash on Route 6 last week dies of his injuries, the hospital says.
Last week, two soldiers were killed and 10 others were injured when a truck hit three military vehicles on the central Route 6.
The truck driver, an East Jerusalem resident, is believed to have lost control of the vehicle before veering into the convoy of off-road vehicles as it traveled east of Netanya.
The soldiers were on their way south after completing training exercises in northern Israel.
Police and the IDF have opened an investigation into the circumstances of the incident.
Britain’s Labour Party expels Jewish anti-Zionist activist
Britain’s Labour Party expels a Jewish anti-Zionist activist following a disciplinary hearing.
Tony Greenstein’s membership in the party was revoked yesterday after a meeting of Labour’s National Constitutional Committee.
He was found to have breached three of the party’s rules: “offensive comments online; offensive posts and comments on his blog; and an email in which he mocked the phrase ‘final solution.’”
Among the offensive comments was the use of the term “Zio,” an anti-Semitic term used to describe supporters of modern-day Israel.
Mike Pence confirmed as keynote speaker at annual AIPAC conference
American Israel Public Affairs Committee confirms that US Vice President Mike Pence will be the keynote speaker at its annual policy conference next month.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley will also deliver speeches at the conference, to be held in Washington, DC, on March 4-6.
IDF warns more violent riots on Gaza border will be met with serious response
Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians warns Gazans that the army will not tolerate riots along the security fence, after four soldiers were injured Saturday by an improvised explosive device that was apparently placed there during such a demonstration.
“Violent riots on the Gaza border cross a red line. You must stop them before the IDF responds to them in a far more serious way,” Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai tells Palestinians in an Arabic video on social media.
The general, whose formal title is coordinator of government activities in the territories, or COGAT, notes that in recent months “15 people have been killed and 400 people have been injured” in these protests by Israeli troops on the border.
Mordechai tells Palestinians they are being exploited by Hamas and other terrorist groups.
“We know that the violent clashes on the border are used as cover for terrorist activity, as happened last Saturday. And we will not allow such an event to happen again,” he says.
— Judah Ari Gross
White House says Trump supports better gun background checks
The White House says US President Donald Trump supports efforts to improve the federal gun background check system after a school shooting in Florida that killed 17 people.
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says the president had spoken to Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, about a bipartisan bill designed to strengthen the FBI database of prohibited gun buyers.
Sanders says, “While discussions are ongoing and revisions are being considered, the President is supportive of efforts to improve the Federal background check system.”
The bill would penalize federal agencies that fail to provide the necessary records and reward states that comply with federal grant preferences and other incentives.
Trump has been a strong supporter of gun rights and the National Rifle Association.
In first, female officer appointed head of police investigations department
For the first time in Israel’s history, a woman has been appointed to lead the Police Internal Investigations Department.
The Civil Service Commission earlier today announced that Keren Bar Menachem, an attorney, will oversee the department tasked with investigating crimes committed within the police department.
Court rules rare Torah parchment to stay in hands of Civil Administration
The Jerusalem District Court ruled yesterday that parchment from a Torah scroll dating back to the 11th century will remain in the hands of the Archaeological Unit of Israel’s Civil Administration.
The rare scroll was seized at the Allenby border crossing in 2013, from smugglers who were trying to take the parchment into Jordan to be sold.
It later emerged that the parchment contains passages written in Samaritan Hebrew from the biblical book of Numbers, and is one of a handful of texts of its kind that date back to the Middle Ages.
In its ruling, the court underscored the importance of combating antiquities theft in Israel and the West Bank.
17 killed in garbage dump collapse in Mozambique
Heavy rains trigger the partial collapse of a huge mound of garbage in Mozambique’s capital, killing as many as 17 people who are buried by debris.
Authorities believe more bodies could be buried at the Hulene garbage dump on the outskirts of Maputo, and a search is underway. The garbage in the poor, densely populated area where the disaster happened rises to the height of a three-story building, according to the Portuguese news agency Lusa.
Twelve people have died, Lusa reports. Radio Mocambique put the death toll at 17. Half a dozen homes are destroyed and some residents in the area are fleeing, for fear of another collapse.
“The mountains of garbage collapsed on the houses and many families were still inside these residences,” Fatima Belchoir, a national disaster official, tells Lusa. Authorities are trying to help people who lost their homes, she says.
The Hulene garbage dump is the largest such facility in Maputo. People often comb through the garbage, searching for food and items to sell.
Health workers have long raised concerns about the impact of the fumes, flies, and other hazards of the dump on the surrounding community. Municipal officials have previously discussed the closure of the dump.
Abbas to seek broader peace process in rare UN speech, officials say
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will call for an alternative to US-mediated negotiations with Israel, during a rare address to the United Nations Security Council tomorrow, according to Palestinian officials.
In a statement ahead of the visit, Abbas’s spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeina, tells state media a “new phase of struggle has started,” as they seek to protect their claim to Jerusalem.
Senior Palestinian official Nasser al-Qudwa says that Abbas would be looking to gain support for a multilateral initiative, but added that the Palestinians would not dictate what shape it would take.
“We can live with different formats, the P5, P5+1, expanded Quartet, we can live with an international peace conference,” Qudwa tells a news conference in Ramallah. “Anything that can do the job, provide a reasonable basis for negotiation and follow up the process — sponsor it until it successfully concludes.”
Iraq hands 6-year jail term to German jihadist teen
An Iraqi court sentences a German teenager to six years in jail for membership of the Islamic State group and illegal entry into the country, a judicial source says.
The source tells AFP that the girl, aged 17, yesterday was handed a five-year term for belonging to IS, and one year in prison for crossing illegally into Iraq.
On January 21, a German woman of Moroccan origin was sentenced to death by hanging on charges of providing “logistical support and helping the terrorist group to carry out crimes.”
The two Germans are among hundreds of foreign suspected jihadists held by Iraqi authorities, who in December announced the defeat of IS after a gruelling three-year battle.
UN draft calls for ‘measures’ over Iran missiles to Yemen
The UN Security Council is considering a drafted resolution that would condemn Iran for violating the arms embargo on Yemen, and call for measures to address this violation, according to the text obtained by AFP on Monday.
The proposed resolution, drafted by Britain, is in response to a report by a UN panel of experts, who found that missiles fired by Yemen’s Huthi rebels at Saudi Arabia last year were made in Iran.
The Security Council is expected to vote on the draft later this month, but it remains unclear whether Russia would back any move that punishes Iran.
The text “condemns” Iran for violating the 2015 arms embargo on Yemen by “failing to take the necessary measures to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer” of short-range ballistic missiles, drones, and other military equipment to the Huthis.
The draft resolution backed by the United States and France specifies that “these violations … require a further response from the council; and further decides to take additional measures to address these violations.”
US envoy to Israel says West Bank settlers ‘aren’t going anywhere’
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman reportedly told American Jewish leaders at a conference in Jerusalem last night that Israeli settlers in the West Bank “aren’t going anywhere.”
Friedman said that evicting and relocating the hundreds of thousands of Israelis living in the territories sought by Palestinians for their future state would spark a civil war, Channel 10 reports.
He said that IDF officers who would have to carry out settlement evacuations are increasingly “people who believe this land was given to them by God,” and would likely refuse to carry such orders.
“I believe that a widespread eviction will lead to a civil war. But that’s my opinion,” he said according to the report.
It said a number of conference participants were “startled” by Friedman’s statements.
In the past, Friedman has been a staunch supporter of the settlement movement. Before taking up his post, he served as president of American Friends of Bet El Institutions, an organization that supports a large West Bank settlement near Ramallah, and he has a long history of excoriating groups who criticize Israel’s settlement policy.
Since Friedman’s appointment as ambassador to Israel, the State Department has twice publicly rejected remarks he had made pertaining to Israel’s presence in the West Bank as not reflecting the stance of the Trump administration.
Netanyahu ally reportedly acted as ‘switchboard’ between PM, Bezeq owner
An ally of Netanyahu is considered by police to be a key suspect in Case 4000, Hadashot TV news reports.
According to the report, he acted as a “switchboard” between Netanyahu and Shaul Elovitch, the owner of the Walla news site and controlling shareholder of telecommunications giant Bezeq.
Hadashot TV news said Netanyahu also worked to find buyers for Walla on Elovitch’s behalf.
The case centers around suspicions that Elovitch influenced the news site’s coverage of Netanyahu and his family in exchange for the Communications Ministry making decisions that potentially could earn Elovitch substantial sums.
— Alex Fullbright
Police said to have incriminating evidence against Sara Netanyahu in Bezeq graft case
Police reportedly possess incriminating evidence against Sara Netanyahu in the latest investigation into an alleged quid pro quo deal that would see the prime minister and his family get favorable coverage from the Walla news website.
According to Hadashot news, police have evidence connecting Sara Netanyahu with confidants of Shaul Elovitch, the owner of Walla and the controlling shareholder of Israel’s largest telecom company, Bezeq.
World Cup trophy visits West Bank ahead of summer games
Thousands of Palestinian football fans took photographs with the World Cup trophy today, as it tours the globe, ahead of this summer’s tournament in Russia.
More than 10,000 people lined up to see the trophy during three days it was displayed near Ramallah in the West Bank, organizers said.
It is the second time the World Cup has been displayed in the Palestinian territories and comes as part of a wider tour of the trophy ahead of the World Cup.
The cup left this afternoon for Jordan, before it goes to Dubai later in the week. It visited elsewhere in Israel last week.
Accused Florida shooter appears in court
The former student accused of killing 17 people at a Florida high school appears in court for a procedural hearing, his first public appearance since he was held without bond on charges of premeditated murder.
Nikolas Cruz, dressed in orange prison garb, sits with his head bowed during the brief hearing before Judge Elizabeth Scherer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The hearing dealt with whether to unseal a defense motion related to access to their client, a minor point in what is certain to be a lengthy prosecution and trial.
Cruz, 19, has been charged on 17 counts of premeditated murder, one each for the students and staff who were shot to death Wednesday during a killing spree at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in nearby Parkland, Florida.
He was remanded to custody without bail, at a hearing Thursday, after his arrest on the day of the shooting.
Settler leader says settlements grew rapidly in 2017
A settler leader says the number of settlers in the West Bank grew at nearly twice the rate of Israel’s overall population last year.
Yaakov Katz says the settler population reached over 435,000 people last year, up 3.4 percent from the previous year. In comparison, Israel’s overall population grew 1.8 percent.
Katz says he expects even more construction now that President Donald Trump is in office. Trump’s Mideast team is dominated by settler allies, and Katz says there is a friendly atmosphere after eight contentious years with the Obama White House.
“We have to thank God he sent Trump to be president of the United States,” he says.
Katz’s “West Bank Jewish Population Stats” is based on official government data and sponsored by Bet-El Institutions, a prominent settler organization.
Supporter of Sufi leader kills 3 police in Iran — report
Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency says a supporter of a Sufi leader has rammed a bus into police, killing three of them before being arrested.
The semi-official ILNA news agency quoted Mohsen Hamedani, a senior security official in Tehran, as saying a gunshot was heard in the area, without providing further details.
Supporters of Sufi leader Nourali Tabandeh gathered near his residence earlier this month, fearing his arrest despite police assurances that they have no intention of detaining him.
Iran’s clerically-overseen government frowns on Sufism, the mystical strain of Islam, which many conservatives view as a deviation from the faith.
Russian FM rebukes Iran over calls for Israel’s destruction
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rebukes Iran for calling for the destruction of Israel, calling it an “absolutely wrong” approach to government policy.
“We have stated many times that we won’t accept the statements that Israel, as a Zionist state, should be destroyed and wiped off the map,” he says at the Valdai Discussion Club’s Middle East Conference according to the state-run Tass news agency. “I believe this is an absolutely wrong way to advance one’s own interests.”
“By the same token, we oppose attempts to view any regional problem through the prism of fighting Iran,” he said. “This is happening in Syria, Yemen, and even the latest developments around the Palestinian issue, including Washington’s announcement of its decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, are largely motivated by this anti-Iranian stance.”
Funeral for 3rd soldier killed in car crash set for tomorrow afternoon
The IDF announces the funeral of Staff Sgt. Shiloh Siman-Tov will be held at 2:30 p.m. in the military section of the Segula Cemetery in Petah Tikva.
Siman-Tov passed away earlier this evening from injuries he sustained from an accident last week, when a truck driver slammed into a convoy of IDF vehicles on Route 6.
Friends and neighbors from the West Bank settlement of Tzofim remembered him as good-hearted and athletic.
“He was always smiling, he loved to volunteer, he was righteous. Everyone loved him and knew him. He was an athlete who played in many of the Samaria sports leagues. This is a major loss for the community,” Yehuda Berkiah, a Tzofim resident said.
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