The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.
Macron welcomes Netanyahu to Elysee Palace ahead of meeting
PARIS — With a handshake and an embrace as Republican Guard soldiers look on, French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the Elysee Palace in Paris.
The two leaders turn and wave to the cameras before heading inside for their meeting.
Hosting Abdullah, Biden thanks Jordan for being a ‘force for stability’ in Mideast
US President Joe Biden has wrapped up a lunch with Jordan’s King Abdullah, the White House says.
During their sit-down, Biden thanked Abdullah for the role Jordan plays “as a force for stability in the Middle East,” according to a White House statement.
“The leaders discussed opportunities and mechanisms to reduce tensions, particularly in the West Bank,” the readout says.
Biden “reaffirmed his strong support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and recognized the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’s crucial role as the custodian of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem, citing the critical need to preserve the historic status quo at the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount,” the White House adds.
Israel announces it has ‘finalized’ text of normalization deal with Sudan
Jerusalem is close to signing a full normalization deal with Sudan, Israel’s foreign minister announces.
At a press conference at Ben Gurion Airport after landing back in Israel from Khartoum, Eli Cohen says that during his visit, he met with ruling General Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan, and the two sides “finalized the text of the agreement.”
A signing ceremony, however, is expected to wait until after Sudan completes a transition to a civilian government, Cohen says. The Foreign Ministry suggests that will occur in Washington within a few months, but such a transition timeline is far from clear.
Sudan has been gripped by deepening unrest since army chief Burhan led a coup in October 2021, derailing a transition to civilian rule following the 2019 ouster of longtime Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir.
“Today’s visit to Sudan lays the foundations for a historic peace agreement with a strategic Arab and Muslim country,” says Cohen. “The peace agreement between Israel and Sudan will promote regional stability and contribute to the national security of the State of Israel.”
Sudan says it has agreed to ‘move forward’ with Israel normalization deal
Sudan and Israel agree to move forward with “normalization,” the Sudanese foreign ministry says during a visit to Khartoum by Israel’s top diplomat.
“It has been agreed to move forward towards the normalization of relations between the two countries,” the Sudanese foreign ministry says in a statement.
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen is expected to land back in Israel in the coming hour and hold a press conference about his trip.
Netanyahu lands in Paris ahead of meeting with Macron
PARIS — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lands in Paris, and sets out in a convoy directly to Elysee Palace for an evening meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Before boarding the flight, Netanyahu said their conversation would focus on the Iranian threat and on expanding the Abraham Accords.
Macron is expected to bring up recent violence between Israel and Palestinians.
Netanyahu to High Court: AG’s position on my conflict of interest is ‘unacceptable’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells the High Court of Justice that he does not accept the position of Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara that his involvement in judicial reform is a conflict of interest due to his ongoing corruption trial.
In a filing to the court, Netanyahu requests two weeks to full respond to the letter that the attorney general sent him earlier today.
He says that he views the attorney general’s position on the matter as “unacceptable.”
Republicans vote Rep. Ilhan Omar off Foreign Affairs panel, citing anti-Israel comments
The US House of Representatives votes to remove Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee.
The long-awaited vote falls along party lines, with all Republicans voting in favor of removing Omar, save for one who votes “present” and all Democrats voting against their progressive colleague’s removal.
The vote tally is 218-211-1.
Omar came under fire several years ago when she declared US support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins.”
She has since apologized repeatedly for that remark and others but Republicans have held it against her, noting that other GOP members were also removed from committees by Democrats.
UN slams Lebanon for slow progress into murder probe of Hezbollah critic
UN rights experts voice deep concern at the slow pace of an investigation into the killing of Lebanese intellectual Lokman Slim two years ago, demanding that Beirut ensure accountability.
“It is incumbent on the Lebanese authorities to fully investigate and bring to justice the perpetrators of this heinous crime,” the four independent experts say. “Failing to carry out a prompt and effective investigation may in itself constitute a violation of the right to life.”
A secular activist from a Shiite family, 58-year-old Slim was found dead in his car on February 4, 2021, a day after his family reported him missing. His bullet-riddled body was found in southern Lebanon — a stronghold of the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement of which he was heavily critical.
Sudanese ruler confirms meeting with Israeli foreign minister in Khartoum
Sudan’s ruler, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, met with Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen in Khartoum earlier today, the first official visit to the country by an Israeli diplomat, the Sudanese authorities announce.
Cohen is slated to land back in Israel this evening and hold a press conference about the trip, which his office called a “historic diplomatic visit.”
הודעה רשמית מלשכתו של שליט סודאן אל-בורהאן: היום נפגש בח'רטום עם שר החוץ אלי כהן ופמלייתו pic.twitter.com/mYLj3VLPF2
— roi kais • روعي كايس • רועי קייס (@kaisos1987) February 2, 2023
Issuing official opinion, AG says judicial overhaul will ‘gravely damage’ checks on power
Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara says the government’s plan to radically overhaul the justice system will cause significant harm to the democratic rule of law in Israel.
In an official 112-page opinion submitted to Justice Minister Yariv Levin, the attorney general says the proposal will “lead to grave damage to the system of checks and balances” between the authorities.
Baharav-Miara notes that many of her concerns “go to the root of the principle of separation of powers, judicial independence… and the protection of individual rights.”
Such an overhaul, she writes, will lead the government to “have broad and practically unlimited authority,” and harm the country’s status “as a Jewish and democratic state.”
Baharav-Miara says that while a democracy is based on “the principle of majority rule,” it must be coupled with the fact that “governing authorities cannot have unlimited power — which is a sure recipe for harming human rights.”
At WWII commemoration, Putin says Russia ‘again’ threatened by German tanks
President Vladimir Putin says Russia is being threatened by German tanks, like during World War II, speaking at an event marking the Soviet victory over Nazi forces in Stalingrad.
“It’s unbelievable but true. We are again being threatened by German Leopard tanks,” Putin says, adding that Russia has an “answer” to any country that threatens it.
Turkey slams Western countries for security warnings ‘harming’ tourism
Turkey slams a group of Western countries that temporarily closed down their consulates in Istanbul over security concerns, accusing them of waging “psychological warfare” and attempting to wreck Turkey’s tourism industry.
Germany, the Netherlands and Britain were among countries that shut down their consulates in the city of around 16 million people this week. The German Embassy cited the risk of possible retaliatory attacks following Quran-burning incidents in some European countries. The United States and other countries issued travel warnings urging citizens to exercise vigilance.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu says the consulate closures and travel warnings are part of a Western plot to prevent a rebound in Turkey’s tourism sector following the coronavirus pandemic.
Police: Palestinian arrested on suspicion of planning major terror attack
Undercover Border Police troops detain a wanted Palestinian in the West Bank city of Jenin this morning who is suspected of planning to commit a major terror attack in Israel, a law enforcement official says.
According to a police spokesman, 22-year-old Amir Karoui was detained in the Jenin refugee camp by the undercover forces, without any clashes.
The forces “operated covertly to arrest the terror operative. The arrest ended quietly without shots being fired and without casualties to our forces,” the spokesman says.
The arrest was made following intelligence given to the forces by the Shin Bet security agency, which warned that Karoui was seeking to carry out an attack in Israeli territory.
Karoui has been transferred to the Shin Bet for further questioning.
American gap-year student killed in Jerusalem car accident
An American student studying at a religious seminary in Jerusalem was killed last night in a car accident in the capital.
Adira Koffsky, 19, was studying at Midreshet Amudim, a gap-year program for Orthodox women. She was killed when a car lost control and flipped over on a rainy Jerusalem street late in the evening, hitting her as she walked nearby. The driver of the car is in serious condition, and a passenger, Martin Pepper, was also killed.
“The entire Amudim family is shattered, our hearts are broken and we are in shock and pain over the loss of our beloved student,” the seminary says in a statement. “All words of wisdom or comfort are empty at this moment.”
4th victim of Elad terrorist attack laid to rest on moshav
Shimon Maatuf, 75, who died overnight due to wounds he sustained eight months ago in a terror attack in Elad on Independence Day, is being laid to rest following a funeral in Moshav Bareket in central Israel.
“He was a humble, sensitive man,” his daughter Aviva tells the Kan public broadcaster of her father, a security guard. “He worked all the time, he made sure to provide for his family… he was always buying things for his grandchildren.”
Coalition chiefs slam AG for telling PM to stay out of judicial overhaul
The heads of the parties in the current ruling coalition issue a statement excoriating Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara for telling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu he cannot be involved in his government’s plan to radically overhaul the judicial system due to his corruption case.
Baharav-Miara’s letter “is an attempt to silence” the government “in complete opposition to the clear mandate we received from the citizens of Israel in the election,” the party heads write.
They maintain that there is no connection between Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s proposals and Netanyahu’s ongoing corruption trial.
“Those who are acting in conflict of interest are actually those in the Attorney General’s Office,” who are “publicly fighting the judicial reform, which will affect their position” while also “using their position to thwart it,” they add.
IDF: 12 projectiles fired overnight at Israel from Gaza
The Israel Defense Forces says 12 projectiles were fired from the Gaza Strip overnight as the Israeli Air Force conducted airstrikes in response to an earlier rocket attack.
Not all of the 12 projectiles were rockets, the IDF says. Some were anti-aircraft missiles aimed at Israeli jets. Others were rockets aimed at Israeli towns.
The military says 11 of the projectiles exploded in open areas or mid-air, and one fell short in the Strip.
The Iron Dome air defense system was not activated in any of the cases.
The IDF struck two Hamas sites in response to a rocket attack yesterday evening, but did not respond to the further attacks overnight.
Heading to Paris, Netanyahu says trip will focus on ‘joint efforts to stop Iran’
Before boarding his flight to Paris, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that the focus of his conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron will be “our joint efforts to stop Iran’s aggression and its drive toward a nuclear weapon.”
He says Israel is continuing to expand the circle of peace with the opening of the Chadian embassy this morning.
With Foreign Minister Eli Cohen reportedly expected to announce he was in Sudan today, Netanyahu pledges that “we will continue to deepen the circle of peace with other countries, near and far.”
Israeli delegation reportedly meets with Sudanese leader in Khartoum
An Israeli delegation headed by Foreign Minister Eli Cohen is reportedly meeting with Sudanese leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan in Khartoum.
According to the Saudi-based Al-Hadath news site, Cohen and Burhan are discussing finalizing a normalization deal, which is said to be “very close.”
Reuters cites two Sudanese government officials confirming the visit of an Israeli delegation to discuss signing a normalization deal.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry says Cohen will hold a press conference at 7:30 p.m. at Ben Gurion Airport following his “return from a historic diplomatic trip,” without elaborating.
Israel and Sudan agreed in 2020 to take steps to normalize ties following such agreements with the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco under the Abraham Accords, but Jerusalem and Khartoum have since struggled to finalize any deal.
France seizes thousands of Iranian assault rifles, missiles heading to Yemen
French naval forces seized thousands of assault rifles, machine guns and anti-tank missiles in the Gulf of Oman coming from Iran heading to Yemen’s Houthi rebels in January, officials say today, the latest such interdiction amid the Mideast nation’s long-running war.
While Iran denies being involved, images of the weapons released by the US military’s Central Command show them to be similar to others captured by American forces in other shipments tied back to Tehran.
The seizure occurred Jan. 15 in the Gulf of Oman, a body of water that stretches from the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf, through to the Arabian Sea and onto the Indian Ocean, US officials say. US Central Command describes the interdiction as happening “along routes historically used to traffic weapons unlawfully from Iran to Yemen.”
EU plans new Russia sanctions ahead of Ukraine war anniversary
The European Union plans to slap Russia with fresh sanctions by the anniversary of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen says on a visit to Kyiv.
“We will introduce with our G7 partners an additional price cap on Russian petroleum products, and by the 24th of February — exactly one year since the invasion started — we aim to have the 10th package of sanctions in place,” von der Leyen says during a press conference with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Existing sanctions are “eroding” Russia’s economy, she says, and “throwing it back by a generation,” estimating that an existing oil price cap alone is costing Moscow around 160 million euros every day.
Report: Egypt invites Hamas, Islamic Jihad officials to Cairo to broker calm
The Egyptian government has reportedly invited senior officials from Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip to visit Cairo in a bid to calm tensions with Israel.
Overnight, several rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza, with the IDF striking the Strip in response, days after the deadliest Palestinian attack on Israelis in 15 years took place in Jerusalem.
The head of the PIJ media office, Dawoud Shehab, told Palestinian media yesterday that Ziad al-Nakhala had received an invitation from Egyptian officials to meet.
The Palestinian Safa news agency reports that Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh has also been invited to visit Cairo next week.
According to the Saudi-funded Al-Arabiya news site, Egypt plans to send a security delegation to Tel Aviv to discuss preventing a further escalation of violence, serving as a broker between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
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