The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.
Thousands of African migrants protest Israeli deportations
Thousands of African asylum seekers are protesting an Israeli plan to deport them.
Israel says thousands of migrants have 60 days to accept an offer to leave the country for an unnamed African destination — known to be Rwanda — in exchange for $3,500 and a plane ticket. Those who don’t by April 1 will be incarcerated indefinitely.
The migrants gathered in front of the Rwandan Embassy to Israel and urged the country and its president, Paul Kagame, not to cooperate.
“Kagame — We are not for sale,” said one banner. “Would you deport me if I was white?” said another, held by protesters with faces painted white.
Israel has 40,000 migrants, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, who say they fled danger. Israel says the vast majority are job seekers.
European Parliament dismisses its Polish vice president over Nazi jab
The European Parliament has voted to dismiss one of its vice presidents, Ryszard Czarnecki of Poland, after he compared a rival Polish parliament member to a Nazi collaborator.
Last month Czarnecki called Roza Thun, a European Parliament lawmaker from Poland’s opposition Civic Platform party, a “szmalcownik,” a derogatory term for the Poles who blackmailed Jews during the Nazi German occupation of Poland, after she had criticized Poland’s government. Parliamentary party leaders called for his dismissal over “serious misconduct.”
Poland’s nationalist-conservative Law and Justice party has been criticized by Israel and the US, among others, for measures including a new law penalizing certain statements about the Holocaust.
Poland’s Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said Tuesday that Czarnecki went “too far” but that dismissing him would violate freedom of speech.
French jihadis held in Syria and Iraq to be tried there
French foreign minister Jean-Yves le Drian says the French citizens who fought with the Islamic State group before being arrested in Syria or Iraq will be judged by local authorities.
Speaking to BFM TV channel, Le Drian says that about 100 fighters have been captured in northeastern Syria by Kurdish fighters.
Le Drian says they will be tried by “local authorities” and won’t be repatriated to France “because they are enemies who fought against Syrian citizens, Turkish people. They have raped and committed barbarian acts.”
He adds that France’s doctrine regarding children was different, with the French government aiming to send them back to their country with the help of the Red Cross.
According to Le Drian, six families of French fighters have also been arrested in Iraq.
In first, Saudi Arabia said to allow flights to Israel over its airspace
Saudi Arabia will allow Air India’s new direct flight from New Delhi to Tel Aviv to use its airspace, according to reports in Hebrew-language media.
Riyadh’s approval means Air India’s flight to Israel will be about five hours — three hours less than El Al’s flight to New Delhi, which is required to fly around the Arabian Peninsula.
According to Kan news, Riyadh approved the airline’s request to fly over its airspace last week.
Air India’s inaugural New Delhi-Tel Aviv flight is slated for March 18.
Palestinian arrested outside West bank military court with pipe bomb
A Palestinian man is reportedly arrested outside a military court in the northern West Bank armed with a pipe bomb.
Security forces cordon off the entrance to the Samaria Military Court, and bomb disposal experts are on their way to the scene.
17-year-old injured in school shooting
A 17-year-old student from Jaljulia is moderately injured when two masked men break into his high school and sh0ot him.
The assailants shot the teen once in the lower body before fleeing the scene.
The circumstances surrounding the incident are not immediately clear, though initial reports indicate the shooting was criminal in nature, and not terrorism.
Magen David Adom paramedics treated the student at the scene before taking him to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikvah
Yesh Atid’s Yaakov Peri resigns from Knesset
Yesh Atid Knesset member Yaakov Peri announces his resignation from the Knesset in the wake of allegations that he leaked information to Shas MK Aryeh Deri while the latter was under investigation for corruption over two decades ago.
In a statement, Peri cites heart problems for his resignation, but also notes the “long shadow” cast by the investigative TV report last month on the opposition party.
“I never hid the fact that health problems prevented me from competing full military service. In the past months there are those who are trying to undermine my credibility and long years of service to the State of Israel,” he says in a statement. “I fought my whole life and was injured during my service in the Shin Bet. Due to the fact that these one-sided publications are casting a long shadow on my long years of service for the security of Israel and on the values of Yesh Atid, I have decided to take time out from my public life and resign from the Knesset.”
France says Syrian government likely using chlorine gas
France says the Syrian government is likely using chlorine gas in its latest attacks on rebel-held areas.
Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian tells BFM TV that “all indications show us today that the Syrian regime is using chlorine gas at the moment.”
The government and its ally Russia have been pounding a besieged rebel-held area outside Damascus for the last two days with airstrikes, killing dozens of people.
A UN-mandated investigator said Tuesday his team was probing reports that bombs allegedly containing weaponized chlorine have been used on two recent occasions in Syria.
“An investigation has been opened on that matter by the United Nations,” Le Drian says. “The threat of using chemical weapons remains, this is a very serious situation.”
Egypt opens Gaza border crossing for 3 days
The Egyptian authorities decide to open the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip for three days, the Palestinian embassy in Cairo announces.
The terminal will be open in both directions as of today, the embassy says.
This is the first time that the border crossing is opened since the beginning of this year.
Palestinian ambassador to Egypt Diab Al-Louh thanks Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sissi for the gesture. Al-Louh also thanks the Egyptian security authorities for their assistance.
The last time the crossing was open was 50 days ago. During 2017, the terminal was open for a total of 35 days.
–Khaled Abu Toameh
Uzbekistan set to grant Israeli tourists visa-free travel
Uzbekistan is set to implement a new immigration policy this week that will allow Israelis to visit the country for 30 days without a visa.
The new rules. which are expected to go into effect on Saturday, will also apply to visitors from Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Turkey and Japan.
Uzbek authorities are also easing restrictions on tourists, including allowing visitors to take photos and videos of the picturesque capital, Tashkent.
Russia warns Israel against recognizing Ukrainian genocide
Russia’s deputy ambassador to Israel has warned the government against passing proposed legislation that would officially recognize the deaths of millions of Ukrainians under Soviet rule in the 1930s as a genocide.
“This is not a good time to discuss this proposal,” Leonid Frolov tells Army Radio. “It will be bad. It will be the wrong step.”
Earlier, Kulanu MK Akram Hasson submitted a bill that would declare December 6 as “Remembrance Day for the Ukrainian Genocide” in Israel.
Space sports car now flying toward asteroid belt beyond Mars
The world’s first space sports car is cruising toward the asteroid belt, well beyond Mars.
SpaceX chief Elon Musk confirmed the new, more distant route for his rocketing Tesla Roadster, which was launched aboard the company’s Falcon Heavy from Florida.
The Heavy became the most powerful rocket flying today with Tuesday’s inaugural test flight.
Musk says the final firing of the upper stage put his red convertible into a solar orbit that stretches all the way to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The original plan had the car traveling no farther than Mars.
In the driver seat of the Tesla is a space-suited mannequin nicknamed “Starman.” Musk doesn’t plan to fly people on the Heavy, but is working on an even bigger rocket for deep-space crews.
3 seriously injured as truck and car collide near Dead Sea
Three people are seriously injured when a truck collided with a car on Route 90, just north of the Dead Sea.
According to paramedics at the scene near Beit Ha’arava junction, the three injured people are trapped inside the car.
Photos from the scene indicate that it was head-on collision.
Lebanon tells army to confront Israeli land, sea ‘aggression’
Lebanon’s top security body has instructed the country’s military to confront any Israeli “aggression” on its land or maritime borders.
The statement by the Higher Defense Council does not elaborate but it comes amid escalating tensions between the two neighbors, who are technically at war.
At the heart of the current dispute is a new oil and gas exploration deal on the countries’ maritime borders. Israel contests Lebanon’s rights to one area.
Meanwhile, Lebanon is protesting a controversial wall that Israel is planning to build along its southern border. Lebanon says it would encroach on its territory.
The defense council said the wall is an aggression against Lebanon’s sovereignty.
Human Rights Watch calls on Iran to stop executing child offenders
Human Rights Watch is calling on Iran to stop executing child offenders after three people were put to death in January for crimes they committed as minors.
“Iran should immediately and unconditionally end the use of the death penalty for crimes committed by children under age 18, and move toward a complete ban on capital punishment,” the New York-based rights group says in a statement.
It detailed the executions of the three detainees — Amirhossein Pourjafar, Ali Kazemi and Mahboubeh Mofidi — last month.
The group says that Iran is “one of only four countries known to have executed child offenders since 2013,” including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Amnesty International says at least 87 people were executed in Iran from 2005 to the start of this year for crimes committed when they were minors.
Driver pulled from wreckage of truck-car crash pronounced dead
Paramedics say the driver of the vehicle that collided with a semitrailer on Route 90 earlier has been pronounced dead.
Emergency crews worked for nearly two hours to extract the driver and his two passengers from the car, whch slammed into the truck head-on near the Beit Ha’arava Junction.
Bennett calls for turning Har Bracha into a city after resident killed in terror attack
Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett calls for the West Bank settlement of Har Bracha to be officially turned into a city after one of its residents was killed in a terror attack.
“The answer is to triple the size of the village and make Har Bracha a city,” Bennett says during a condolence call to the Ben-Gal family. “That is how we will convey the message that we are here to stay,” he says.
Palestinian who tried to infiltrate settlement turns himself in to IDF
One of the two Palestinians suspected of attempting to infiltrate a Jewish settlement in the northern West Bank last month has turned himself in to the IDF, the army says in a statement.
In late January, soldiers near the settlement of Itamar spotted the pair dressed in army uniforms trying to enter the gated community.
One was arrested at the scene, but the other escaped.
Israeli authorities were investigating whether the pair were planning to carry out a terror attack or sought to commit another type of crime.
Israel’s diamond exchange launching cryptocurrency
Israel’s Diamond Exchange, one of the three largest worldwide, is launching cryptocurrency in what it said Wednesday is a bid to increase trade and make transactions more efficient and transparent.
The cryptocurrency, to be called Carat, is expected to hit the market around May and will be used by investors and the general public.
A separate one, called Cut, is being launched this week for use between dealers in a market that has often been opaque.
Blockchain technology — essentially a digitized ledger — will be used for the cryptocurrencies.
Syria said to warn Israel of ‘grave ramifications’ of alleged airstrike
Syria’s Foreign Ministry warns Israel of “grave ramifications” after IAF warplanes allegedly struck a military position near the capital Damascus early this morning.
“Israel continues showing aggression and supporting armed terrorist groups. It’s state terrorism,” the ministry statement says according to the Ynet news site.
“We once again warn Israel of the grave ramifications of its actions and call on the Security Council to denounce them,” it says.
UN experts say al-Qaeda greater threat than IS in some places
UN experts say al-Qaeda’s global network remains “remarkably resilient” and poses a greater threat than the Islamic State extremist group in several regions, including Yemen and Somalia.
The report by experts monitoring sanctions against both groups, obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, said al-Qaeda affiliates “remain a threat at least as serious” as IS in West Africa and South Asia.
In a separate report circulated Tuesday, UN experts said IS still poses “a significant and evolving threat around the world,” despite recent setbacks in Iraq, Syria and the southern Philippines that forced the militants to relinquish strongholds.
The new report said unnamed countries highlight the support between some al-Qaeda and IS members in the preparation of attacks, which poses “a potential new threat” in some regions.
Netanyahu proclaims innocence ahead of expected indictment recommendation
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is again proclaiming his innocence amid reports that police are wrapping up their investigation into the alleged corruption and are set to make an indictment recommendation.
“Many of you are asking what will happen, so I’d like to reassure you: There won’t be anything, because I know the truth,” he says in a video uploaded to his Facebook page. “At the end of the day, the legal entities will also reach this simple truth: there is nothing.”
Police chiefs, including Commissioner Roni Alsheich, and the heads of the national police force’s Investigations Department will present their recommendations on “Case 1000” and “Case 2000” next week, Hadashot news reported yesterday, citing a police source.
Police chiefs in ‘unanimous agreement’ to recommend indictment against Netanyahu
Police chiefs, including Commissioner Roni Alsheich, are reportedly set to recommend indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on corruption charges.
“Police chiefs are in unanimous agreement that there is sufficient evidence to indict Netanyahu for bribe taking in Case 1,000 or the so-called “gifts affair,” according to the Ynet news site,
Regarding Case 2,000, police are divided on whether there is an evidentiary basis for criminal charges, the report says.
In Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.
Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister weaken a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.
Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing in both cases.
UN to meet this week on humanitarian crisis in Syria
Sweden and Kuwait are calling for a UN Security Council meeting on the escalating violence in several areas of Syria and the “dire consequences” for the already critical humanitarian situation in the war-torn country.
The council is expected to hear a briefing on Thursday and then hold closed-door consultations on the growing humanitarian crisis.
Sweden’s UN Ambassador Olof Skoog says the council needs to hear from UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock about what the council can do to support the UN call for a 30-day humanitarian cease-fire to deliver life-saving aid and evacuate critically ill people from besieged areas in Syria.
The Security Council is currently deadlocked on Syria, with Russia blocking a statement proposed by Sweden and Kuwait supporting five points urged by Lowcock.
Skoog says he is “particularly concerned about attacks against civilians and civilian objects, such as hospitals.”
He says aid deliveries to besieged and hard-to-reach areas also remain blocked, leading to “an even more acute situation,” particularly in the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta.
Olmert says he hopes Netanyahu will end his tenure ‘quickly’
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert says he hopes his successor Benjamin Netanyahu will “quickly” end his term in office, but declines to comment on the ongoing police investigations into the prime minister.
“I’m not known as someone who remains silent, and I thought it would be appropriate to keep silent and not rush,” he says at a memorial service for the late prime minister Ariel Sharon according to reports in Hebrew-language media. “I wish the prime minister would end his term quickly and in a proper way.”
Olmert, who was prime minister from 2006 – 2008, refuses to comment on reports of the possible corruption indictment against Israel’s current leader.
Bahrain accuses Iran of training oil pipeline ‘bombers’
Bahrain says it has arrested four men suspected of bombing a Saudi Aramco oil pipeline, accusing Iran of training and arming two of the suspects.
The blast on November 10 cut off the pipeline linking Bahrain’s Bapco refinery with oil giant Aramco’s main pumping station in neighbouring Saudi Arabia’s Dhahran province.
Authorities at the time blamed “terrorists” for the explosion.
The interior ministry this afternoon says that four Bahraini men, aged 23 to 27, had been arrested for “plotting” and “remotely bombing” the pipeline outside the capital Manama.
Two of the four had received “intensive training at the Iranian Revolutionary Guard camps with the help of the leading fugitive terrorists living in Iran,” it says in a statement.
Three others remain at large, according to the statement.