The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they unfolded.
After terror attack, Netanyahu calls on Israelis ‘not to take the law into your hands’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issues a statement lamenting a deadly terror attack earlier today and calling on Israelis not to take the law into their own hands in response.
His comments come after a group of settlers rioted in Huwara following the shooting attack there that killed two Israeli brothers.
“The IDF and the security forces are currently hunting for the murderer,” says Netanyahu. “We will find him, we will catch him and we will bring him to justice.”
“I am asking, while blood is boiling and winds are high — don’t take the law into your hands,” he adds. “I ask that you allow the IDF and security forces to do their work.”
First Israeli flight to use Oman airspace takes off from Tel Aviv
The first Israeli flight to pass through the airspace of Oman takes off from Ben Gurion Airport, according to El Al.
The flight to Bangkok is slated to take eight hours instead of the 11 it has traditionally required to travel around Saudi Arabia and Oman on the way to the Far East.
Oman agreed last week to open its airspace to all carriers after the Saudis made a similar announcement last year.
Netanyahu: ‘There is and there will be no freeze’ in settlement building
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu states there will be no settlement building freeze after Israeli officials agreed to hold off on such announcements at a summit today in Aqaba, Jordan.
“Contrary to the tweets, the construction and regulation in Judea and Samaria will continue according to the original schedule, with no changes,” tweets Netanyahu. “There is and there will be no freeze.”
A joint statement from the participants following the meeting between Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian, Egyptian and US officials in Jordan this afternoon states that the agreement “includes an Israeli commitment to stop discussion of any new settlement units for four months and to stop authorization of any outposts for six months.”
The Israeli statement following the summit said that no settlement announcements were “expected in the coming months.”
Report: US intelligence believes COVID could be result of lab leak
A classified document provided to the White House and key members of US Congress indicated that the COVID-19 virus most likely leaked from a Chinese laboratory, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The updated opinion, produced by the US Energy Department, was attached to an existing document produced by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines’s office.
The department, which is responsible for a network of labs in the US, including some that conduct biological studies, reportedly made its conclusion based on new intelligence — which officials declined to detail.
However, according to those who have seen the report, the department apparently indicated that it has “low confidence” in its judgment.
After attending Aqaba summit, Hanegbi says there is ‘no building freeze’ in settlements
National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi, who attended today’s summit in Aqaba, says that Israel did not agree to any settlement freeze or policy changes.
“Contrary to reports and tweets about the meeting in Jordan, there is no change of policy in Israel,” says Hanegbi, a former longtime Likud MK.
“In the coming months the State of Israel will legalize 9 outposts and approve 9,500 housing units in Judea and Samaria,” Hanegbi says, using the biblical term for the West Bank. “There is no building freeze or change in the status quo on the Temple Mount and there is no restriction in IDF activity.”
A joint statement from the participants following the meeting between Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian, Egyptian and US officials in Jordan states that the agreement “includes an Israeli commitment to stop discussion of any new settlement units for four months and to stop authorization of any outposts for six months.”
The Israeli statement said that no settlement announcements were “expected in the coming months.”
Egypt’s FM to pay visit to Turkey, Syria for first time in decade
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry will head to Turkey and Syria tomorrow morning, his office says, for the first such visit in a decade of tense relations with both countries.
The trip aims to show “solidarity with the two countries and their brotherly peoples” after the devastating earthquake that hit Syri and Turkey earlier this month, a foreign ministry statement says.
The 7.8-magnitude quake that struck on February 6 killed more than 46,000 people in both countries.
Cabinet ministers come out against Jordan summit; Lapid: This is dangerous chaos
Opposition leader Yair Lapid mocks the range of cabinet ministers who have come out against a statement from the government following a summit with the Palestinians in Jordan earlier today.
“It can’t be that the State of Israel sends an official delegation of the highest rank to a US-backed summit, comes to agreements and then senior ministers in the cabinet tweet against themselves,” writes Lapid. “This is not a government, this is dangerous chaos.”
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir tweets following news of Israel agreeing to a brief settlement freeze in Aqaba: “What happened in Jordan (if it happened) stays in Jordan.”
Negev and Galilee Minister Yitzhak Wasserlauf writes: “If someone does a summit in Jordan without involving the government, they shouldn’t expect the government to back its conclusions.”
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich vowed that there would not be a settlement freeze “for even one day.”
Settlers hold protest in Huwara following deadly terrorist attack there
Dozens of Israeli settlers are protesting in the northern West Bank town of Huwara following a deadly shooting attack there earlier today.
According to the demonstrators, Border Police officers are attempting to disperse the crowd with tear gas.
The protesters say they are demanding the Israeli security forces deal with the “nests of terror” in the area.
There are no immediate reports of injuries or arrests.
Palestinian media reports claim the settlers have set fire to a home in the area.
Earlier, several homes in the town were set on fire by settlers, according to the Yesh Din rights group.
⭕مراسلتنا: مستوطنون يحرقون منزل مواطن بالقرب من يتسهار جنوب نابلس. pic.twitter.com/yk07tA8eBo
— إذاعة الأقصى – عاجل (@Alaqsavoice_Brk) February 26, 2023
After agreements in Aqaba, Smotrich vows no settlement freeze ‘for even one day’
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich reacts harshly to news that Israel agreed to a brief settlement freeze at a security summit in Jordan earlier today.
“I don’t know what was or was not talked about in Jordan,” he tweets. “I heard about this unnecessary summit from the media just like you.”
The far-right Religious Zionism leader says that “there is one thing I do know: there will not be any freezing of building and developments in settlements for even one day (and it’s under my authority).”
According to Jordan, Israel has agreed not to announce any new settlement building for four to six months. Israel’s statement on the meeting says that there are no settlement announcements “expected in the coming months.”
Smotrich and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant signed an agreement last week handing Smotrich control over enforcement powers over illegal construction, authority over planning and construction for settlements and land allocation matters.
Settlers allegedly assault Palestinians, set fire to homes in revenge attack, says rights group
Israeli settlers allegedly assaulted Palestinians and set fire to a number of homes in the West Bank town of Huwara following a deadly terror shooting attack there earlier.
According to the Yesh Din rights group, one Palestinian is lightly hurt after being stabbed and three homes were set alight.
Citing eyewitnesses and the Huwara municipality, Yesh Din says dozens of settlers in the area were involved in the attack.
תחקירני יש דין מדווחים: ע"פ עיריית חווארה ועדי ראיה אירועי אלימות מתנחלים באזור מערבית לכפר קרוב ליצהר לאחר הפיגוע באזור.
פצוע אחד פלסטיני מדקירות, ושלושה בתים שנשרפו ע"י המתנחלים. עדי הראייה והעירייה מוסרים על עשרות מתנחלים שעדיין באזור. pic.twitter.com/0fWxIpox5J
— Yasser Okbi (@OkbiYasser) February 26, 2023
Jordan: Israel agrees to halt new settlement approvals for 4-6 months
A statement from Jordan’s foreign ministry says the Israeli and Palestinian representatives at the Aqaba summit agreed to work toward a “just and lasting peace” and affirmed the need to “commit to de-escalation on the ground.”
The statement also says that the two sides agreed to preserve the status quo at the Temple Mount, and that Israel has agreed to halt new settlement approvals in the West Bank for four to six months.
It also says that both sides agreed to support “confidence-building steps” and to meet again next month in Egypt.
The Israeli statement on the meeting did not mention the Temple Mount, and it said that no decisions on new settlement building “were expected in the coming months.”
DM Gallant orders IDF to ramp up operations to catch Huwara terrorist
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant orders the Israel Defense Forces to ramp up operations in the West Bank to locate the gunman who killed two Israelis in the town of Huwara earlier.
“Gallant directed the security forces to focus operational and intelligence efforts to capture the terrorists, while taking any necessary action, including offensive actions to prevent further attacks,” his office says in a statement after he held an assessment with top defense officials.
Gallant also approves the army to bolster forces in the West Bank, “with the aim of expanding defense operations in the settlements and on the roads,” his office adds.
At Aqaba summit, Israel, PA agree to weigh restarting security coordination, meet again in Egypt
A security summit between Israeli and Palestinian officials in Aqaba has ended with a series of agreements, according to Jordanian and Israeli sources.
A senior Israeli official says that the summit ended with “an agreement to establish a joint security committee” to examine renewing Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation. The parties also agree to hold another meeting — sponsored by Egypt — before Ramadan, which is to start in under a month, “in order to examine progress in the security arena.”
Israeli officials at the summit stressed that Jerusalem will not walk back its decision to legalize nine settlement outposts in the West Bank and to build 9,500 housing units there, but it does not intend to make any further settlement announcements in the coming months.
Jordanian state broadcaster Al-Mamlaka reports that the talks ended with “agreement on a number of steps.”
Israel sent Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi to the talks, while the Palestinians sent PA intelligence chief Majed Faraj. US National Security Council coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk, as well as Jordanian and Egyptian security officials, were also there.
Mother of 2 brothers killed in terror attack: Nothing will fill the hole in my heart
Esti Yaniv, the mother of the brothers Hallel and Yagel Yaniv who were killed in a terror attack today, says nothing will fill the hole in her heart.
“We received a tremendous slap in the face from God,” she says in a statement picked up by Hebrew media outlets. “We are trying to find the good things, the kindness, that we had a family Shabbat together, good conversations with the kids.”
“We have a huge hole in our hearts,” she continues. “Nothing will close that hole, not [settlement] construction, not a protest — nothing.”
Smotrich joins call to pull out of Aqaba summit following terror attack
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich joins a call for Israel to pull its delegation from an ongoing security summit with the Palestinian Authority in Jordan following the deadly shooting attack earlier today.
“We don’t speak with terror. We strike at terror,” Smotrich tweets following the terror attack.
“I call on the prime minister to bring the Israeli delegation back from Aqaba immediately,” he adds, calling for the cabinet to convene to decide on a series of security measures in the wake of the attack.
Israel has sent Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi to the summit in Aqaba to meet with Palestinian officials as well as US, Jordanian and Egyptian figures.
After terror shooting, police chief says cops are at ‘maximum alert’
Israel Police chief Kobi Shabtai says security forces will work tirelessly to capture the terrorist who carried out a deadly shooting of two Israelis near Huwara earlier today.
“I trust the Shin Bet and IDF intelligence, who will know how to reach the terrorist,” Shabtai says in a statement.
“We are in a very sensitive situation and it requires all of us to be on operational alert,” he says, adding that the “Israel Police is entering maximum alert in order to be at the highest level of preparedness for operation.”
Victims of shooting attack named as brothers from Har Bracha
The two victims of the shooting attack near Huwara are named as brothers Hallel Yaniv, 21 and Yagel Yaniv, 19, residents of the West Bank settlement of Har Bracha.
The two were killed when a Palestinian gunman opened fire from close range at their car on the Route 60 highway, then fled the scene, apparently on foot, according to the IDF.
Jordan’s Abdullah to US official: Must ‘step up efforts’ to bring Israeli-Palestinian calm
Jordan’s King Abdullah tells a visiting US official that further efforts are needed to bring calm to the region amid an uptick in violence between Israel and the Palestinians.
Abdullah “highlighted the need to step up efforts toward calm and de-escalation in the Palestinian Territories” to White House Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk, according to a statement from the Jordanian government.
McGurk is in Jordan to attend an Israeli-Palestinian security summit in Aqaba. Israel has sent National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar to participate in the meeting.
Abdullah also called “to cease any unilateral measures that could lead to instability and undermine peace prospects,” and to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Amman says.
All arrested protesters released; man who drove threateningly toward crowd kept in custody
A man accused of threateningly accelerating his car in the direction of anti-government protesters last night has his remand extended as police continue to investigate the incident.
Overall, 21 protesters were arrested during clashes with police last night as some broke through police barriers to block the Ayalon Highway, with five remaining in police custody overnight, reports the Ynet news site. All of them were reportedly released today.
Yosef Haim Mamia is ordered held in custody for a further three days by the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on suspicion he endangered human lives on a public road. He is also suspected of reckless driving in a vehicle, obstructing a police officer under aggravated circumstances and assaulting a police officer in the performance of his duties.
Ministers advance bill that would allow death penalty for terrorists
The Ministerial Committee for Legislation votes to advance a bill that would allow courts to impose the death penalty for certain terrorist offenses.
“On this difficult day, when two Israeli citizens were killed in a Palestinian terror attack, there is nothing more symbolic than passing a death penalty for terrorists law,” says National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that the government “will continue to operate in all ways… to deter terrorists and to maintain the security of Israel. Our response to terror is to strike back against terror with strength and deepen our roots in our land.”
The Attorney General’s office has come out against the bill — an item of legislation which Ben Gvir has long been pushing for.
After deadly terror attack, minister calls for pulling out of Jordan summit with PA
National Missions Minister Orit Strock calls on the government to withdraw its delegation to ongoing security talks with the Palestinians in Aqaba, Jordan, following a deadly terrorist shooting in the West Bank.
“The terror attack in Huwara requires an immediate return of the Israeli delegation from the Aqaba summit,” tweets Strock of the far-right Religious Zionism party. “There is no room for a summit with those who pay the murderers of Jews.”
Israeli-Palestinian security talks kick off in Jordan
Israeli and Palestinian representatives are holding talks in Jordan, state media in the kingdom says, with the “political-security” meeting aiming to restore calm after deadly violence.
Jordanian state broadcaster Al-Mamlaka says the meeting, which kicks off in the Red Sea resort of Aqaba, is “the first of its kind in years between Palestinians and Israelis with regional and international participation” and would address “the situation in the Palestinian territories.”
Sources with knowledge of the meeting say Palestinian intelligence chief Majed Faraj and the head of Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security agency Ronen Bar are set to be in attendance.
Hamas slams the Palestinian Authority’s participation.
The meeting is “a blatant attempt to cover up ongoing [Israeli] occupation crimes, and a green light for it to carry out violations against our people and land and holy sites,” Hamas says in a statement.
DM Gallant to hold security assessment following deadly shooting attack
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant will hold an assessment with security officials in the coming hours following the deadly shooting attack in Huwara, his office says.
His office says Gallant is being “regularly updated on the details of the terror attack.”
2 Jewish Israelis shot dead in West Bank in suspected terrorist attack
Two victims of a suspected shooting attack in the West Bank town of Huwara have died, medics say.
The victims are not immediately named, but are identified as residents of the nearby settlement of Har Bracha, according to local officials.
The Samaria Regional Council said earlier that the victims are Jews and that the incident is a terror attack.
The military has yet to confirm the shooting is a terror attack.
Iran’s currency hits new record low amid anti-government protests
Iran’s currency falls to a new record low, plunging to 600,000 to the dollar for the first time as the effects of nationwide anti-government protests and the breakdown of the 2015 nuclear deal continued to roil the economy.
Iranians have formed long lines in front of exchange offices in recent days, hoping to acquire increasingly scarce dollars. Many have seen their life savings evaporate as the local currency has deteriorated. Inflation reached 53.4% in January, up from 41.4% two years ago, according to Iran’s statistics center.
Iran’s currency was trading at 32,000 rials to the dollar when it signed the 2015 nuclear accord with world powers.
Two Israelis seriously wounded in shooting incident in West Bank
Medics say they are responding to reports of two people seriously hurt in a shooting in the West Bank town of Huwara.
Footage from the scene shows a car with Israeli license plates riddled with bullets.
The Rescuers Without Border emergency service says two people are seriously hurt. The background of the incident is not immediately clear.
The Israel Defense Forces describes the incident on the Route 60 highway in Huwara as a “shooting incident,” and is not immediately saying it is a terror attack.
Deputy AG: Bill to limit grounds for removing PM would create ‘legal black hole’
Deputy Attorney General Gil Limon issues an official opinion against the government’s plan to pass a law that would severely limit the grounds for disqualification of a serving prime minister.
Such a move, Limon writes, would create a “legal black hole,” which would not allow any judicial review.
A Likud bill submitted last week says that only the prime minister or the cabinet, with a 75 percent majority, can declare a prime minister unfit for office — and then only for reasons pertaining to their mental or physical health.
The legislation was submitted after rumors swirled that the attorney general was considering declaring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unfit for office — an idea she swiftly denied.
Two men shot dead in suspected underworld hit in northern Israel
Two men have been shot dead in Bi’ina, an Arab town in northern Israel, police say.
According to police, the men, residents of the town, were shot and killed while sitting inside a car.
Police say they are searching for suspects with the use of a helicopter, and have already arrested two individuals.
The incident is suspected to be a conflict between criminal elements, police say.
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