ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 145

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Defending judicial remake, Netanyahu hints at limits on protests against government

PM says no plans to arrest opposition heads, but says protesters blocking roads and comparisons of government to Nazis unacceptable

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces his plans to combat cost of living, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on January 11, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces his plans to combat cost of living, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on January 11, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.

Police said bracing for unrest at anti-government protests planned for Saturday

Israelis protest against the current government at Habima Square in Tel Aviv, January 7, 2023. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Israelis protest against the current government at Habima Square in Tel Aviv, January 7, 2023. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Police are bracing for unrest at planned anti-government protests on Saturday night in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the Walla news site reports.

The report says police held a meeting to prepare for the protests together with National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir.

Protests are expected over the government’s plans to dramatically reform the judicial system, a move critics say would undermine democracy.

Defending judicial reforms, Netanyahu hints at limits on protests against government

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces his plans to combat cost of living, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on January 11, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces his plans to combat cost of living, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on January 11, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Asked about concerns that Israel’s judicial overhaul could harm Israel’s global credit rating, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promises to act responsibly, but hints at limits he will tolerate to protests against his government.

Netanyahu denies that the moves against Israel’s courts undermine Israeli democracy.

“We are not weakening the judicial system, we are strengthening all our systems, democracy and the rule of law that are all dependant on the correct balance between institutions,” Netanyahu says at a press conference presenting his government’s economic plans.

“This balance that we find in all countries around the world has been somewhat broken, as you know, in Israel, and we have to return it in a responsible way and that’s what we will do,” he says.

Netanyahu refers to controversies in the last days where members of his government called to arrest opposition leaders and protesters who block roads.

“If I’m already talking about this I would like to appeal for calm in the public discourse. The state will not be destroyed, democracy will not be obliterated,” he says.

“The essence of democracy is in arguments, not with bullets and shells but at the ballot box and in votes in the Knesset, or parliament,” he says. “We can disagree, in democracy we don’t agree, but in a democracy you reach a resolution even if you don’t agree, but you also have to delineate the limits to the conversation.”

“In a democracy, you don’t arrest the heads of the opposition, and in a democracy, the opposition does not call the heads of government Nazis, and the elected government the Third Reich — you need to calm down.”

More than anything there is no violence, there is no license for violence, and there is no license to block roads or other things that invasively harm the citizens,” he says.

Netanyahu details price freezes in bid to combat inflation

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a press conference with Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on January 11, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a press conference with Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on January 11, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces the government’s triage plan to combat cost of living concerns, promising to freeze or reduce price hikes affecting core utilities, fuel and municipal property taxes.

“These steps will immediately cheapen the monthly expenses of every household in Israel,” Netanyahu says, adding that because these are the basic input expenses that affect the whole economy, reducing their costs would be like “putting sticks in the wheel of inflation.”

Alongside Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, Netanyahu tells journalists that his government’s four-point plan will: institute a one-year freeze in municipal property tax rates; rollback the January fuel price hike to reduce gas costs by NIS 0.10 a liter, reduce January’s 8% electricity price hike to only 2.5%; and similarly, reduce the planned 3.5% water price increase to only 1%.

Netanyahu promises that further initiatives, including addressing the housing crisis and fulfilling an election promise to provide early childhood education, will be discussed in the upcoming budget.

Netanyahu, Smotrich presenting economic plan

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich presents the government's economic plan on January 11, 2023 (Screencapture/Channel 13)
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich presents the government's economic plan on January 11, 2023 (Screencapture/Channel 13)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich are presenting their economic plan.

Netanyahu says the focus is to bring down the high cost of living, sparked by global inflation.

Netanyahu announces a freeze on municipal taxes, and a series of steps to limit price rises of electricity, water and gas.

Smotrich vows to help the weaker segments of the population, but also says he will remain fiscally responsible.

Police probing anti-Zionist sect members who visited Jenin, met terror operatives

Members of Neturei Karta meet with Palestinian officials in Jenin on January 9, 2023. (Twitter screenshot used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)
Members of Neturei Karta meet with Palestinian officials in Jenin on January 9, 2023. (Twitter screenshot used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)

Police are probing three members of the fringe anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox sect Neturei Karta who entered Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank earlier in the week and met with Palestinians from local terror groups.

The men, residents of Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh, were filmed meeting with prominent Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group officials as well as families of terrorist attackers. The Jenin camp is seen as a hotbed of Palestinian terrorism.

According to the Kan public broadcaster the men could face lengthy prison spells if convicted of supporting terror.

Russia again replaces military commander in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, speaks with Chief of the General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov, left, and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, after a meeting with senior military officers in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, speaks with Chief of the General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov, left, and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, after a meeting with senior military officers in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Russia has again replaced its top commander in Ukraine, putting army chief of staff Valery Gerasimov in charge of its forces in the conflict, the defense ministry says.

“Army General Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces, has been appointed Commander of the Joint Grouping of Troops (Forces),” the ministry says.

Sergei Surovikin, the commander of Russia’s forces in Ukraine for the past three months, will become Gerasimov’s deputy.

Surovikin will work alongside two other generals, Oleg Salyukov and Alexei Kim, according to the statement.

“The increase in the level of leadership of the special operation is linked to the expansion of the scale of the tasks at hand and the need to organize closer interaction between troops,” the ministry said.

Surovikin, an army veteran with a reputation for ruthlessness, was tasked with turning the tide in Ukraine in October as the Russian army faced a series of battlefield defeats.

Two days after Surovikin’s nomination, the Russian army signaled a strategic change by unleashing a wave of drone and missile attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure targets, causing electricity blackouts and water outages in several cities.

NY Republicans call on Santos to resign after lying about Jewish heritage

US Represntative-elect George Santos sits in the chamber during opening day of the 118th Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, January 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
US Represntative-elect George Santos sits in the chamber during opening day of the 118th Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, January 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Local Republican leaders in New York call for the immediate resignation of new GOP congressman George Santos, who is facing multiple investigations by prosecutors over his personal and campaign finances and lies about his resume and Jewish family heritage.

“His lies were not mere fibs. He disgraced the House of Representatives,” Joseph Cairo Jr., chair of the Nassau County Republican Committee, says at a news conference. “He’s not welcome here at Republican headquarters.”

The local party has no mechanism to remove Santos from office. He was sworn in to the US House last week.

The move comes a day after two Democrats from New York asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate Santos. Reps. Ritchie Torres and Dan Goldman, in a letter to the committee, said Santos also failed to file “timely, accurate and complete” financial disclosure reports and the reports he did file are “sparse and perplexing.”

Earlier this week, the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center lodged a complaint with the Federal Election Commission and urged regulators to investigate Santos. The “mountain of lies” Santos propagated during the campaign about his life story and qualifications, the center said, should prompt the commission to “thoroughly investigate what appear to be equally brazen lies about how his campaign raised and spent money.”

Initially, the victory by Santos, an openly gay Republican who flipped a Long Island House seat held by Democrats for a decade, was seen as one of his party’s bright spots in an otherwise underwhelming midterm election. But as reports began to emerge that he had lied about having Jewish ancestry, a career at top Wall Street firms and a college degree, Santos turned into a distraction and embarrassment to the party as it took control of the House.

Iran sentences ex-top defense official to death for spying for UK on nuclear talks

A person involved with security at the Uranium Conversion Facility just outside the city of Isfahan, Iran, on March 30, 2005. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)
A person involved with security at the Uranium Conversion Facility just outside the city of Isfahan, Iran, on March 30, 2005. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

Iran sentences a former senior defense official to death after convicting him on charges of spying for Britain, state-linked media reports.

The judiciary says Ali Reza Akbari, who was deputy defense minister until 2001, was a “key spy” for British intelligence, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reports. It said Iranian intelligence unmasked the spying by feeding him false information.

Tasnim also reported that he had spied on past nuclear talks between Iran and Western powers. Akbari had served as deputy defense minister under President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist who had pushed for improved relations with the West.

For several years, Iran has been locked in a shadow war with the United States and Israel, marked by covert attacks on its disputed nuclear program. The killing of Iran’s top nuclear scientist in 2020, which Iran blamed on Israel, indicated foreign intelligence services had made major inroads.

Akbari, who ran a private think tank, has not been seen in public since 2019, when he was apparently arrested.

Authorities have not released any details about his trial. Those accused of espionage and other crimes related to national security are usually tried behind closed doors, where rights groups say they do not choose their own lawyers and are not allowed to see evidence against them.

Driver denies trying to run over anti-government protesters in Beersheba

A car stopped just in front of an anti-government protest in Beersheba on January 10, 2023. (Twitter screenshot used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)
A car stopped just in front of an anti-government protest in Beersheba on January 10, 2023. (Twitter screenshot used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)

A man arrested for apparently trying to run over a group of students holding an anti-government protest in Beersheba denies trying to harm them.

The suspect, a 26-year-old man from the religious city of Elad, was arrested for “endangering a protest group” in Beersheba and brought in for questioning, police said yesterday.

“My client is fully cooperating with the police. He completely denies that he hit a certain person with the vehicle or that he had the intention to do so — the vehicle was stopped in front of the demonstrators,” the man’s lawyer says after a hearing in which his remand was extended by five days.

The Kan public broadcaster reports that this is the second time the man has been accused of similar crimes, but the first incident occurred when he was a minor.

Medics: Suspected attacker in West Bank stabbing dies of wounds after being shot

The Rescuers Without Borders emergency service says the alleged stabber who moderately wounded an Israeli man in the South Hebron Hills died after being shot.

Initial reports suggest a civilian shot the attacker, not a soldier.

The victim, in his 30s, is taken to Soroka hospital in Beersheba.

7-Eleven opens first store in Israel

In this July 1, 2008, file photo, a 7-Eleven is shown in Palo Alto, Calif.  (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)
In this July 1, 2008, file photo, a 7-Eleven is shown in Palo Alto, Calif. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

US convenience store mega-chain 7-Eleven opens its first store in Israel.

The shop in Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff center is the first of an expected several hundred to open in the next three years.

The opening was marked by long lines as Israelis clamored to try their signature items like Slurpees.

In Israel, the chain will be a partnership between 7-Eleven and Israel’s Electra Consumer Products.

7-Eleven, with its catchphrase “Oh Thank Heaven For 7-Eleven,” has 77,000 stores in 18 countries.

Appliance maker Electra Consumer Products has been building its food division and in May acquired control of the Yeinot Bitan supermarket chain, which has around 200 stores across Israel.

Medics: Israeli man stabbed at West Bank outpost; attacker ‘neutralized’

Illustrative: Medics at the scene of a suspected stabbing attack in East Jerusalem, October 22, 2022. (Magen David Adom)
Illustrative: Medics at the scene of a suspected stabbing attack in East Jerusalem, October 22, 2022. (Magen David Adom)

An Israeli man has been stabbed and wounded in a suspected attack in the South Hebron Hills area of the West Bank, medics say.

According to the Rescuers Without Borders emergency service, one Israeli man was stabbed in the head near the Havat Yehuda illegal outpost.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service says its medics are treating a 25-year-old man in moderate condition.

The service says the alleged attacker has been “neutralized.”

The conditions of both the victim and the alleged attacker are unclear.

Maoz wants to involve Rabbinate in determining who is Jewish enough for immigration

Deputy Minister Avi Maoz, right, meets with Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, center-left, in the latter's office in Jerusalem on January 11, 2023. (Avi Maoz's Office)
Deputy Minister Avi Maoz, right, meets with Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, center-left, in the latter's office in Jerusalem on January 11, 2023. (Avi Maoz's Office)

MK Avi Maoz says he plans to involve the Chief Rabbinate in determining the Jewishness of people from the former Soviet Union applying for Israeli citizenship, a move that would likely make the process more difficult for applicants.

Maoz, who fiercely opposes non-Jewish immigration to Israel, announces his intention following a meeting with Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau.

However, it is not clear how the Rabbinate would enter into the process, which is currently run according to Interior Ministry guidelines.

Maoz, a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, is responsible for Nativ, a government organization that is responsible for determining the eligibility of potential immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

The organization makes its decisions based on interviews with applicants and whatever documentation they have showing they are eligible for Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return, which guarantees citizenship to anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent so long as they do not practice another religion.

In his meeting with Lau, Maoz says he wants to involve the Chief Rabbinate in the process as he believes it has “the ultimate halachic authority on issues of Jewishness and conversion,” using the Hebrew term for Jewish religious law.

Federal Aviation Administration lifts grounding order for all departing US flights

Passengers check in at Southwest Airlines' self serve kiosks at Chicago's Midway Airport as flight delays stemming from a computer outage at the Federal Aviation Administration has brought flights to a standstill across the US Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Passengers check in at Southwest Airlines' self serve kiosks at Chicago's Midway Airport as flight delays stemming from a computer outage at the Federal Aviation Administration has brought flights to a standstill across the US Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The Federal Aviation Administration is lifting a ground stop on flights across the US following a computer outage early today that results in thousands of delays quickly cascading through the system at airports nationwide.

Earlier in the morning the FAA ordered all US flights to delay departures until at least 9 a.m. EST. Due to heavy congestion, the FAA cleared flights to depart at Newark Liberty and Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airports. The agency said that normal air traffic operations were resuming gradually across the US following the outage.

More than 3,700 flights were delayed and more than 640 were canceled early in the day.

The FAA says that it is continuing to look into the cause of the initial problem.

Netanyahu speaks with India’s Modi, agree to meet

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as Netanyahu arrives in India on January 14, 2018. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as Netanyahu arrives in India on January 14, 2018. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi.

Modi congratulates Netanyahu on his reelection and the two reaffirmed the importance of cooperation between the two nations, according to a statement from Netanyahu’s office.

The two agree to meet soon, the statement says, without giving details.

Earlier in the day Netanyahu also spoke with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

Calling the conversation “good and friendly,” the statement said that the two agreed to move forward on a joint dialogue between the Dutch and Israeli governments.

Palestinians: Gunman shot and wounded by IDF dies of his wounds

Palestinian health officials say a gunman who was shot by Israeli troops in the Balata refugee camp in the northern West Bank this morning died of his wounds.

The Israel Defense Forces said earlier troops entered the camp in Nablus to conduct arrests.

“During the operation of forces in the Balata refugee camp in the city of Nablus, the forces fired at gunmen who fired at them, [and] a suspect was hit,” the IDF said in a statement.

The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry had said earlier that man was critically hurt by the gunfire.

The ministry provides an update that the man, named as Ahmed Abu Junaid, 21, has now died of his wounds.

Cohen meets UK minister for Mideast, praises plan to add IRGC to terror list

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (L) meets with  Lord Tariq Ahmad, the UK minister for the Middle East region in Jerusalem on January 11, 2023 (Rafi Ben Hakoun/GPO)
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (L) meets with Lord Tariq Ahmad, the UK minister for the Middle East region in Jerusalem on January 11, 2023 (Rafi Ben Hakoun/GPO)

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen meets with Lord Tariq Ahmad, the UK minister for the Middle East region.

According to the Foreign Ministry, Cohen praises the UK for its intention to add Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps to its terror list, calling it a “clear message to the Iranian terror regime.”

Cohen, who spoke with British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly yesterday, also stresses the importance of reaching a free trade agreement with London.

Ahmad says that he reiterated British support for a two-state solution, and discussed the Iran threat, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the Abraham Accords.

Hussein Husseini, father of peace deal that ended Lebanon’s civil war, dies

Hussein Husseini, a former parliament speaker waves his hand as he leaves the parliament building after he announced he was quitting his parliamentary seat to protest an Arab-brokered deal that produced a Cabinet of opposing factions, in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2008. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)
Hussein Husseini, a former parliament speaker waves his hand as he leaves the parliament building after he announced he was quitting his parliamentary seat to protest an Arab-brokered deal that produced a Cabinet of opposing factions, in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2008. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)

Hussein Husseini, Lebanon’s former parliament speaker and the father of the 1989 Taif Agreement that ended the country’s 15-year civil war, dies after days of illness. He was 85.

Husseini was admitted to Beirut’s American University Medical Center on Jan. 3, after suffering from a severe flu, the state-run National News Agency says. NNA adds that Husseini remained in the intensive care unit until his death this morning.

Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati declared a three-day mourning period in the crisis-hit Lebanon while Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri postponed a session that was scheduled to take place on Thursday to elect a new president.

Husseini was elected to parliament representing the northeastern Baalbek-Hermel region in 1972 and remained a legislator until 2008. He was elected as parliament speaker in 1984, a job that he kept until 1992.

The politician was a harsh critic of Lebanon’s sectarian-based political system that divided top posts in the country of 5 million between Christian and Muslim communities. Husseini was also a strong vocal opponent of the country’s financial policies, including heavy borrowing, that started in the 1990s and eventually led to Lebanon’s ongoing three-year economic meltdown.

Born to a prominent Shiite family in the town of Shmistar in the eastern Bekaa Valley in April 1937, Husseini enjoyed wide respect among many Lebanese — especially for his defense of civil rights and for not being involved in widespread corruption among the country’s political class.

White House: No evidence’ of cyberattack ‘at this point’ in US air travel shutdown

A Southwest Airlines passenger jet approaches Kansas City International Airport to land as geese fly overhead, Friday, Dec. 30, 2022, in Kansas City, Mo. A computer outage at the Federal Aviation Administration brought flights to a standstill across the US.(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)
A Southwest Airlines passenger jet approaches Kansas City International Airport to land as geese fly overhead, Friday, Dec. 30, 2022, in Kansas City, Mo. A computer outage at the Federal Aviation Administration brought flights to a standstill across the US.(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

There is no sign of a cyberattack “at this point” in the computer problem that triggered US authorities to pause all domestic air travel departures, the White House says, adding that US President Joe Biden has been briefed.

“The president has been briefed by the secretary of transportation this morning on the FAA system outage. There is no evidence of a cyberattack at this point, but the President directed DOT to conduct a full investigation into the causes. The FAA will provide regular updates,” tweets Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, referring to the transport department and federal aviation authority.

Suicide blast near Afghan foreign ministry, more than 20 casualties

A suicide bomber detonates a device near Afghanistan’s foreign ministry in the capital, causing more than 20 casualties, an AFP staff member says.

Images from the scene show people lying in the snow in the street outside the central Kabul building.

“I don’t know how many of them were dead or injured,” AFP driver Jamshed Karimi says, adding: “I saw the man blow himself up.”

Kabul police spokesman Khalid Zadran confirms the explosion “which unfortunately resulted in casualties.”

“Security teams have reached the area,” he tweets.

Police: No injuries in shooting attack on Salem crossing in West Bank

Police say no officers were hurt in a shooting attack against the Salem crossing in the northern West Bank.

A Border Police spokesman says officers returned fire at Palestinian gunmen who fled the area.

Dozens of shell casings were found by troops during scans nearby, the spokesman says.

The Salem crossing has been the target of numerous shooting attacks in recent months.

Ben Gvir: Israel a democracy, but I understand calls to lock up opposition chiefs

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir arrives for a weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, on January 8, 2023. (RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP)
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir arrives for a weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, on January 8, 2023. (RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP)

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir says he “really, really understands” calls by MKs in his far-right Otzma Yehudit party to lock up opposition leaders who oppose the government, but concedes it won’t happen.

“No one is going to arrest opponents of the government, we are a democracy and Israel will continue being a democracy, but I really, really understand their feelings,” Ben Gvir tells Army Radio.

His comments come a day after Otzma Yehudit MK Zvika Fogel, a retired brigadier general in the Israel Defense Forces, called for jailing opposition leader Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid, National Unity party leader Benny Gantz, and former MKs Yair Golan and Moshe Ya’alon for their denunciation of the Netanyahu coalition’s plans to overhaul the judicial system.

“When Zvika Fogel wakes up every morning to threats against him and to his country and our country, he has something to say,” Ben Gvir says.

“When [Otzma Yehudit MK] Almog Cohen wakes up, and by the way he is also threatened by all sorts of anarchists, and he wakes up and hears about civil uprisings, that things will end in bloodshed, that there will be a civil war — so what do you want,” Ben Gvir says.

Cohen had echoed Fogel’s sentiment, telling Channel 13 that if opposition leaders continue “their incitement and desire for bloodshed on the streets — they will be put in handcuffs.”

Turkish ambassador presents credentials to Herzog, ending 4-year vacancy

President Isaac Herzog (R) accepts the credentials from new Turkish Ambassador to Israel Sakir Ozkan Torunlar in Jerusalem on January 11, 2023 (Lazar Berman/Times of Israel)
President Isaac Herzog (R) accepts the credentials from new Turkish Ambassador to Israel Sakir Ozkan Torunlar in Jerusalem on January 11, 2023 (Lazar Berman/Times of Israel)

Turkey’s new ambassador to Israel presents his letter of credence to President Isaac Herzog, officially filling a role that has been empty for more than four years.

Sakir Ozkan Torunlar, who landed in Israel in November, is a veteran diplomat who previously served as Turkey’s consul general in Jerusalem — effectively its ambassador to the Palestinians — and was most recently ambassador to India.

In his speech after receiving the letter, Herzog invites Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Israel.

“It is a relationship that has known crises in the past but is now, to our delight, on a very encouraging trajectory,” says Herzog, pointing at the potential for cooperation in tourism, academia, energy, science, culture, and agriculture.

In his speech, Torunlar stresses the importance of maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount, but notably does not mention the Palestinian issue.

He also expresses Turkey’s hope that bilateral trade will grow to $15 billion in the near future.

The ambassadors of Australia, Philippines, El Salvador, and Korea also presented their credentials to Herzog earlier in the day.

IDF troops said raiding northern West Bank town, surrounding home

An IDF convoy seen entering the northern West Bank town of Zababdeh, near Jenin, on January 11, 2023 (Screen capture/Twitter: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
An IDF convoy seen entering the northern West Bank town of Zababdeh, near Jenin, on January 11, 2023 (Screen capture/Twitter: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Palestinian media outlets report that Israeli forces have entered the northern West Bank town of Zababdeh, near Jenin, and are surrounding a home.

Footage shows a convoy of military vehicles in the area.

There is no immediate comment from the Israel Defense Forces or Border Police on the raid.

Earlier, Palestinian media reported that gunmen opened fire on the Salem crossing in the northern West Bank.

A video circulating online purported to show the moment the gunmen opened fire. Sounds of gunfire can be heard in the video.

There is no immediate comment from Israeli authorities on the alleged attack.

The Salem crossing, close to the Arab Israeli town of the same name, has been the target of numerous shooting attacks in recent months.

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