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Netanyahu vows to crack down on crime in Arab community, as with terrorism

In Zoom call with Arab mayors, PM vows more state funds, police stations, as some local leaders boycott call and others say change of tack not evident in the field

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits a coronavirus vaccination facility in the northern Arab city of Nazareth on January 13, 2021. (Gil Eliyahu/POOL/AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits a coronavirus vaccination facility in the northern Arab city of Nazareth on January 13, 2021. (Gil Eliyahu/POOL/AFP)

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

Gantz accuses PM of trying to derail permit process for Palestinian construction

Defense Minister Benny Gantz accuses Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of attempting to go behind his back to block his ministry’s approval of Palestinian construction projects.

Last week, Gantz announced plans to permit a number of Palestinian building projects in Area C, which makes up some 60 percent of the West Bank and is under full Israeli security and administrative control, through his ministry’s Civil Administration’s Planning and Licensing Subcommittee.

The Palestinian construction permits were approved by the subcommittee this morning.

According to Gantz’s office, members of Netanyahu’s office attempted to intervene to block the authorizations, reaching out directly to military officials on the subcommittee, in apparent contravention of rules requiring such communications to go through the defense minister.

“I will not allow the Prime Minister’s Office to circumvent [my] authorities. The activities of that subcommittee are under the auspices of the defense minister. There are operating procedures. It was decided last week to hold the meeting and there is no need to interfere with this proper process while it is being carried out,” Gantz says in a statement.

“If the prime minister wants to request an injunction, he knows my number,” he adds.

Iran asks watchdog not to publish ‘unnecessary’ nuke details

Iran has urged the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog to avoid publishing “unnecessary” details on Tehran’s nuclear program, state TV reports, a day after Germany, France and Britain said Tehran has “no credible civilian use” for its development of uranium metal.

The report quotes a statement from Iran’s nuclear department that asks the International Atomic Energy Agency to avoid publishing details on Iran’s nuclear program that may cause confusion.

“It is expected the international atomic energy agency avoid providing unnecessary details and prevent paving ground for misunderstanding” in the international community, the statement says, without elaborating.

Yesterday, Germany, France and Britain pressed Iran to back off its plan to develop uranium metal, calling it “the latest planned violation” of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. The goal of the deal is to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb, something Iran insists it does not want to do.

“Iran has no credible civilian use for uranium metal,” they said in a joint statement. “The production of uranium metal has potentially grave military implications.”

Russian cargo ship sinks in the Black Sea, rescue underway

A Russian-flagged cargo ship has sunk off Turkey’s Black Sea coast and emergency workers are out rescuing the crew, an official says.

The Turkish coast guard says the ship is called ARVIN and the ship’s crew are on lifeboats, according to the official Anadolu news agency.

The governor of Bartin province announces the shipwreck off Inkumu in northern Turkey and says rescue efforts have reached least three crewmembers out of the 15 who are on three lifeboats. Governor Sinan Guner says there are no reports of deaths.

The area has been buffeted by heavy rains, snow and strong winds.

“The weather conditions are bad and the rescue teams are also having trouble getting out but they will,” he tells Anadolu.

Rescue workers from the coast guard and Turkey’s emergency authority are at the site. The governor says they have also requested help from civilian ships.

Anyone who got 2nd vaccine dose to become exempt from quarantine a week later

Israel's coronavirus czar Prof. Nachman Ash visits the Ziv hospital in Safed, December 24, 2020 (David Cohen/Flash90)
Israel's coronavirus czar Prof. Nachman Ash visits the Ziv hospital in Safed, December 24, 2020 (David Cohen/Flash90)

Nachman Ash, who is coordinating the government’s coronavirus response, says any person who received their second and final vaccine dose will be exempt from quarantine starting a week after getting their second shot.

In a press briefing, Ash adds that more restrictions will be eased for vaccinees and they will be announced once a so-called green passport starts being handed out in the coming days. He says eligible citizens will be able to get the document via an online system that is currently undergoing final tests.

Ash repeats comments he made this morning saying he will likely recommend extending the current lockdown restrictions beyond the January 21 deadline, citing still-rising infections but holding out hope that the trend is starting to reverse.

“Over the past days we can see immense strain on the health care system,” Ash says. “There are about 1,200 serious patients, COVID-19 wards are 85% full, and hospitals are scaling back non-urgent procedures. The strain is expected to continue for several more days until we see a drop in infections.”

“We are following the numbers of confirmed patients and are cautiously hoping that the slowdown trend from the weekend will continue. The direction is encouraging,” he says. But he adds: “The chance that we will recommend extending the lockdown is high.”

Netanyahu thanks outgoing US envoy for ‘correcting injustices’

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman (R) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at an event in Jerusalem marking the anniversary of the transfer of the US embassy to the city, May 14, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman (R) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at an event in Jerusalem marking the anniversary of the transfer of the US embassy to the city, May 14, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heaps praise on outgoing US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman for “correcting diplomatic injustices” regarding the Jewish state during his term.

“I must say that over the years I have met many ambassadors from many countries, including from the US, our great ally, but I can say that there was never a better ambassador than David Friedman in establishing the deep ties between Israel and the US, in correcting the diplomatic injustices that were created over the years in global diplomacy regarding Israel… and many other things some of which have yet to be told,” Netanyahu says at a farewell event at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.

Netanyahu mentions Friedman’s role in the decisions by the Trump administration to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, to recognize Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights, to declare West Bank settlements not illegal and expand their legitimacy, and to combat Iran’s influence in the region.

He also praises Friedman’s involvement in the Trump peace plan and in achieving normalization agreements with four Arab countries.

The premier hails the Middle East peace plan’s emphasis on “the need for the Palestinians to recognize the State of Israel as the national state of the Jewish people.”

“The absence of this recognition is the root of the conflict,” he says. “This is what has been maintaining this conflict for over 100 years since before the establishment of the State of Israel: The denial of the Balfour Declaration, the denial of the partition plan, the denial of all those signs and steps that would recognize our right to a national state of our own in our historic homeland.”

The plan has been utterly rejected by Palestinians.

Regarding Iran, Netanyahu says: “We have to be on the side of the good and fight and struggle constantly against the bad. It’s not only for the sake of Israel and the United States, it’s for the sake of all those who live in the Middle East, and beyond the Middle East, who want to see a better world, a safer world and a world that is free of the greatest terror of them all – nuclear terror.”

“We are really appreciative of your love for Israel, your commitment as an American patriot to strengthening America, to strengthen freedom, to fight for the common values that bind Americans and Israelis together,” he concludes. “And I think no one has done it better than you. So thank you.”

Serious COVID-19 patients at all-time high; over 250,000 got 2nd vaccine dose

Updated COVID-19 figures by the Health Ministry show 5,011 new cases were confirmed yesterday, with 7.2% of the 63,278 tests coming back positive. The positivity rate is the lowest in a week, though the lower-than-normal testing levels over the weekend mean it cannot be seen as a trend yet.

The number of active cases is 82,877, and the total cases confirmed since the pandemic began is 546,087.

The number of serious patients is at an all-time high of 1,237, including 332 in critical condition and 276 on ventilators.

The death toll is 3,979.

The data shows more than a quarter of a million Israelis have gotten the second dose of the vaccine: 255,260. The number of those who received the first shot is 2,067,389.

Sudanese protesters burn Israeli flag in rally against normalization deal

Sudanese demonstrators burn Israeli flags during a rally against their country's recent signing of a deal on normalizing relations with the Jewish state, outside the cabinet offices in the capital Khartoum, on January 17, 2021. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)
Sudanese demonstrators burn Israeli flags during a rally against their country's recent signing of a deal on normalizing relations with the Jewish state, outside the cabinet offices in the capital Khartoum, on January 17, 2021. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

Dozens of Sudanese protesters burn the Israeli flag during a rally against Khartoum’s recent signing of a deal on normalizing relations with the Jewish state.

Demonstrators gather outside the cabinet offices in the capital Khartoum, chanting anti-Israel slogans and carrying banners reading, “normalization is betrayal” and “normalization is a crime.”

On January 6, Sudan became the third Arab country to sign the US-brokered “Abraham Accords” on normalizing ties with Israel after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain last year.

Morocco has also agreed to a US-sponsored normalization with Israel that restores short-lived past relations.

The protesters, who say they belong to an anti-normalization group, also carry banners reading “down with Abraham Accords” and “Abraham Accords are American blackmail in exchange for submission.”

Sudan signed the accords less than a month after Washington removed Khartoum from its “state sponsors of terrorism” blacklist as part of a quid pro quo for the East African country normalizing ties with Israel.

In October, Khartoum said its deal with the Jewish state would only come into force after its approval by a yet-to-be-formed parliament.

The country has been undergoing a rocky transition since the army toppled long-time president Omar al-Bashir in 2019 following months of mass protests against his rule, triggered by economic hardship.

The transitional administration, which took power months after Bashir’s ouster, has been pushing to rebuild the country’s economy beleaguered by decades of US sanctions and internal conflict.

It has sought to boost its international standing by forging closer ties with the US, as it grapples with a deepening economic crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

UK demands China grant UN access to Xinjiang over ‘appalling human rights abuses’

In this December 3, 2018, file photo, residents line up inside the Artux City Vocational Skills Education Training Service Center which has previously been revealed by leaked documents to be a forced indoctrination camp at the Kunshan Industrial Park in Artux in western China's Xinjiang region. (AP/Ng Han Guan, File)
In this December 3, 2018, file photo, residents line up inside the Artux City Vocational Skills Education Training Service Center which has previously been revealed by leaked documents to be a forced indoctrination camp at the Kunshan Industrial Park in Artux in western China's Xinjiang region. (AP/Ng Han Guan, File)

Britain’s government presses China to allow UN rights inspectors to visit Xinjiang after raising anew allegations of “appalling” human rights abuses against the Uighur minority.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab last week introduced import controls on firms that may have sourced goods from the region in northwest China using forced labor from the mainly Muslim Uighur community.

Speaking on the BBC, he decries reports of “slave labor effectively, forced sterilization, appalling human rights abuses.”

“Whether or not it amounts to genocide has to be determined by a court. The bar has been set incredibly high,” Raab says.

Britain’s Foreign Minister Dominic Raab holds a press conference with his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi (unseen) following a meeting in Jerusalem, August 25, 2020. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

“And frankly we shouldn’t be engaged in free-trade negotiations with countries abusing human rights well below the limit of genocide,” he added, implicitly attacking the European Union for securing an investment pact with China last month.

Raab’s government opposes efforts underway in parliament to give UK courts the power to declare a genocide in Xinjiang, which would bar the government from proceeding with any free-trade agreement with China.

But Raab tells Sky News he supports “the spirit” of the proposal, and demands that China show more transparency over Xinjiang, where experts say at least one million Uighurs have been detained in recent years in political “re-education camps.”

“What China says is this is all lies cooked up by the West, and Britain a leading member amongst them,” the foreign secretary says. “What we say is if you dispute the allegations and the claims and the reports, there’s a simple way to clear this up: allow the UN Human Rights Commissioner to visit and access and see these sites.”

Health Ministry publishes full vaccine data-sharing deal with Pfizer

Following criticism over Israel’s deal with Pfizer to give the company details about the country’s vaccination campaign in exchange for early and widespread use of the firm’s inoculation, the Health Ministry publishes the full deal on its website.

The decision comes to quell rumors that the privacy of those who get immunized will be violated.

The ministry says Pfizer agreed to the publication of the document, parts of which have been redacted for “commercial and other reasons.”

Lebanon signs with Pfizer for 2.1 million vaccine doses

A nurse in protective clothing holds coronavirus testing material, at a center in the Rafik Hariri University Hospital in Beirut, Lebanon, January 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
A nurse in protective clothing holds coronavirus testing material, at a center in the Rafik Hariri University Hospital in Beirut, Lebanon, January 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Lebanon finalizes a deal with Pfizer for 2.1 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine amid a surge in infections that has overwhelmed the country’s health care system.

The doses are to arrive in Lebanon starting early February, according to Lebanon’s health ministry.

The government’s statement says the Pfizer vaccines will be complemented with another 2.7 million doses from the UN-led program to provide for countries in need. It gives no date for when those doses are expected to arrive but says the agreement was signed in October.

A lawmaker earlier told The Associated Press the Pfizer deal being negotiated is for $18 a dose, a price that takes into consideration Lebanon’s economic troubles, and is expected to cover 20% of the population for free.

Another 2 million doses are being negotiated in coordination with Lebanon’s private sector and the other international pharmaceutical companies that have developed the vaccines, the ministry says. It names Oxford-Astrazeneca and China’s Sinopharm as the international sources.

Israel and the Gulf countries were the first in the Middle East to secure vaccines and begin inoculating their populations.

Lebanon, a country of more than 6 million, including at least 1 million refugees and their descendants, has seen a massive climb in infections since Christmas and New Year holidays. The surge has overwhelmed hospitals and the health care system.

Almost half of UK Jews avoid visible signs of Judaism due to anti-Semitism: poll

Members of the Jewish community hold a protest against Britain's opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn and anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, outside the British Houses of Parliament in central London, on March 26, 2018. (AFP Photo/Tolga Akmen)
Members of the Jewish community hold a protest against Britain's opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn and anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, outside the British Houses of Parliament in central London, on March 26, 2018. (AFP Photo/Tolga Akmen)

A recent survey has shown 44% of British Jews avoid visible displays of their Judaism, such as a kippa, a Star of David or other symbols, due to fear of anti-Semitism, The Guardian reports.

That is the highest figure since 2016, according to the poll published by the Campaign Against Antisemitism group and King’s College London.

Nine out of ten respondents say media bias against Israel is fueling persecution of Jews in the UK. Two-thirds are “deeply concerned” by BBC’s coverage of matters related to Jews, and 55% by its alleged mishandling of complaints of anti-Semitism.

However, UK Jews are more optimistic about their future than last year, a figure attributed mainly to Jeremy Corbyn being ousted from the Labour Party. However, 78% believe politicians aren’t doing enough to protect the community.

Some 57% say they feel welcome in Britain, with 18% saying they feel somewhat or very unwelcome.

“Britain’s Jews are back from the brink,” says Gideon Falter, chief executive of Campaign Against Antisemitism. “This study starkly shows that Labour under Jeremy Corbyn dealt a crushing blow to Jews’ confidence in their very future in this country, and that our community is now beginning to recover.

“But scars remain. Notwithstanding the relief felt by so many, our data shows that nearly half of those who normally wear outwards symbols of their Judaism now feel they have to hide it.”

Plane carrying Kremlin foe Navalny leaves Berlin for Moscow

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny sits in a Pobeda airlines plane heading to Moscow before take-off from Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) in Schoenefeld, southeast of Berlin, on January 17, 2021. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP)
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny sits in a Pobeda airlines plane heading to Moscow before take-off from Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) in Schoenefeld, southeast of Berlin, on January 17, 2021. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP)

Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, who has spent five months in Berlin recovering from a poisoning attack, is on a plane headed for Moscow, AFP journalists on board report.

Navalny’s flight on budget airline Pobeda took off from Berlin’s BER airport. Navalny risks being arrested on arrival, but he tells reporters on board that he is “an innocent person.”

The plane is scheduled to land at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport around 7:20 p.m. local time (1620 GMT).

Israel to start vaccinating prisoners this week, including Palestinians

The Israel Prison Service says it will begin vaccinating all incarcerated people against COVID-19 this week, after Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit opposed a push by Public Security Minister Amir Ohana to delay the process.

Israel has given at least one vaccine dose to more than two million of its citizens in the world’s fastest rate per capita.

Israeli and international rights groups, including Amnesty International, as well as the Palestine Liberation Organization, have issued public calls for Israel to vaccinate the estimated 4,400 Palestinian security prisoners held in its jails.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein announced last week that vaccine doses would be distributed to prisons over the coming days.

The prison service issues a statement saying, “Following the vaccination of staff… the vaccination of detainees will begin in prisons in accordance with medical and operational protocols established by the Prison Service.”

A prison service spokesperson tells AFP the directive applies to “all prisoners, without distinction.”

— with AFP

Abbas meets Egyptian, Jordanian intel chiefs to discuss Palestinian elections

From left: Jordanian intelligence chief Ahmad Husni, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian General Intelligence Director Abbas Kamel, and Palestinian General Intelligence Service head Majed Faraj meet at Abbas's office in Ramallah, West Bank, January 17, 2021. (Thair Ghanayem)
From left: Jordanian intelligence chief Ahmad Husni, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian General Intelligence Director Abbas Kamel, and Palestinian General Intelligence Service head Majed Faraj meet at Abbas's office in Ramallah, West Bank, January 17, 2021. (Thair Ghanayem)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with the heads of Egyptian and Jordanian intelligence in his headquarters in Ramallah this afternoon, the PA presidency says in a statement.

The meeting was also attended by Palestinian Authority intelligence chief Majed Faraj, one of Abbas’s closest associates. The meeting dealt with “the [Palestinian] national unity portfolio, especially the recent elections decree,” according to his office’s statement.

The PA president on Friday night issued a formal presidential decreeing ordering the first Palestinian national elections in more than a decade and a half.

Amid Haredi violations, Gantz says ‘no point’ in lockdown if enforcement selective

Amid more and more reports of large-scale instituted violations of the lockdown rules in the ultra-Orthodox community, Defense Minister Benny Gantz says there is “no point” continuing the lockdown if enforcement is selective.

“This week we will decide whether to extend the lockdown” beyond January 21, Gantz says during a tour of a contact-tracing center.

“If there isn’t equal enforcement, there is no point in continuing the lockdown,” he says.

Channel 12 reports that residents of ultra-Orthodox areas are operating a special phone line with many informants updating every time a police vehicle arrives, including what streets they are on.

The line operates in Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim neighborhood and in several neighborhoods in Beit Shemesh, according to the report.

Police clash with ultra-Orthodox Jewish men while enforcing lockdown rules in Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim neighborhood on January 14, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A Mea Shearim resident is quoted saying police rarely come in any case, and leave quickly when they do.

“Everything is going on as usual with us. Everything’s open,” he says.

Many reports have said major yeshivas are open. Hundreds of demonstrators clashed with cops who came to close one in Jerusalem and threw rocks and other objects at them.

No arrests were made and several fines were issued.

The ultra-Orthodox community has significantly higher positive COVID-19 test rates than the general population.

Meeting on lockdown extension set for Tuesday at 3 p.m.

The cabinet meeting in which ministers will decide whether to extend the current tightened lockdown restrictions beyond January 21 has been set for Tuesday, Hebrew-language media reports.

The measures are widely expected to be extended for another week due to surging infections.

Israel approves almost 800 new settlement homes

A picture taken on November 19, 2019 shows a new housing construction site in the Israeli settlement of Elazar, near the Palestinian city of Bethlehem south of Jerusalem, in the West Bank. (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)
A picture taken on November 19, 2019 shows a new housing construction site in the Israeli settlement of Elazar, near the Palestinian city of Bethlehem south of Jerusalem, in the West Bank. (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)

Israel approves the construction of almost 800 housing units in West Bank settlements, as promised last week by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, three days before the inauguration of US President-elect Joe Biden.

The Civil Administration says some 780 homes have been okayed.

Settler leaders hail the move, with Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan saying it’s a “historic achievement” reached after years of work, but calls on the government to also recognize thousands of homes in illegal outposts build without the state’s approval.

Meanwhile, left-wing watchdog Peace Now slams the move.

“By promoting hundreds of settlement units, Prime Minister Netanyahu is once again putting his personal political interests over those of the country,” it says in a statement.

“Not only will this settlement activity erode the possibility for a conflict-ending resolution with the Palestinians in the long-term, but in the short-term it needlessly sets Israel on a collision course with the incoming Biden administration.”

Israel bans members of some major human rights groups from entering schools

File: B'Tselem chief Hagai El-Ad speaks during a press conference in Tel Aviv, February 2016 (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
File: B'Tselem chief Hagai El-Ad speaks during a press conference in Tel Aviv, February 2016 (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Following a decision by Israeli human rights group B’Tselem to henceforth refer to Israel as an “apartheid state,” Education Minister Yoav Gallant bans members of groups that “call Israel false derogatory names” from entering schools in the country.

Though Gallant’s statement doesn’t mention B’Tselem, the move comes a day before the left-wing group’s director Hagai El-Ad is set to attend a webinar — via Zoom — with the Hebrew Reali School in Haifa.

In a letter to his office’s director and to school district managers, Gallant says entry should be prohibited to “groups that act in contradiction with the education system’s goals, including calling Israel false derogatory names, opposing Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state, discouraging meaningful service in the Israel Defense Forces, or acting to harm or humiliate IDF soldiers during or after their service.”

That would presumably include many human rights groups besides B’Tselem, although it’s unclear if it will prevent tomorrow’s Zoom session.

Palestinian reports say girl, 11, injured from rocks thrown by settlers

Palestinian media reports that an 11-year-old Palestinian girl was moderately injured after extremist settlers threw rocks at her near the West Bank village of Madama and the nearby Yitzhar settlement.

The reports aren’t immediately confirmed by official sources.

MK Yair Golan of the left-wing Meretz party calls the perpetrators “Jewish terrorists,” tweeting photos circulating on social media and saying the alleged attack could inflame tensions in the West Bank.

Phil Spector, famed music producer and murderer, dead at 81

Music producer Phil Spector sits in a courtroom for his sentencing in Los Angeles, May 29, 2009. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, Pool)
Music producer Phil Spector sits in a courtroom for his sentencing in Los Angeles, May 29, 2009. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, Pool)

Phil Spector, the eccentric and revolutionary US music producer who transformed rock music with his “Wall of Sound” method and who later was convicted of murder, has died at age 81.

California state prison officials say Spector, who is Jewish, died yesterday of natural causes at a hospital.

Spector was convicted of murdering actress Lana Clarkson in 2003 at his castle-like mansion on the edge of Los Angeles. After a trial in 2009, he was given a 19-years-to-life sentence.

Deputy AG scolds Tel Aviv mayor for saying he’ll reopen culture venues

Deputy Attorney General Raz Nazri criticizes Ron Huldai, the mayor of Tel Aviv and head of the newly formed The Israelis party, for saying he will not wait for government approval to reopen cultural sites in his city, and that he plans to allow theaters and museums to raise their curtains and throw open their doors to those who have been fully vaccinated.

“As long as the restriction is in place, a municipality — big and respected as it may be — isn’t permitted to take the law into its own hands and independently set rules to reopen the culture industry,” Nizri says in a letter to Huldai.

He says the only legal way to do so would be if the government cancels the lockdown or fails to extend it.

Man, 30, falls off his roof in Lod due to heavy winds

Strong winds in Israel cause a 30-year-old man, presumably working to mend the roof of his house in the central city of Lod, to fall and suffer serious injuries, Hebrew-language media reports.

The man is taken by medics to Asaf Harofeh Medical Center.

Stormy weather has reached central Israel in the last few hours, after weeks of unseasonably warm weather for January.

Navalny lands in Russia after his flight is diverted to different Moscow airport

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny sits in a Pobeda airlines plane heading to Moscow before take-off from Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) in Schoenefeld, southeast of Berlin, on January 17, 2021. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP)
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny sits in a Pobeda airlines plane heading to Moscow before take-off from Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) in Schoenefeld, southeast of Berlin, on January 17, 2021. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP)

A flight carrying Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny back to Russia has landed after being diverted away from a Moscow airport where his supporters and media gathered, AFP journalists on the plane say.

The pilot on the flight from Berlin told passengers that it was landing at Sheremetyevo airport, instead of Vnukovo as planned.

Sheremetyevo is one of four international airports that serve Moscow.

Russian police earlier detained top allies of Navalny at Vnukovo as the Kremlin critic is flying home from Germany under threat of imminent arrest.

Navalny is returning to Russia for the first time since a near-fatal poisoning in August, in defiance of warnings from officials that they will arrest him for breaking the terms of a suspended prison sentence.

EU says approval of settler homes, ‘contrary to international law’

The European Union condemns Israel’s approval of nearly 800 settlement housing units in the West Bank, saying it “is contrary to international law and further undermines the prospects of a viable two-state solution.”

A statement issued by EU spokesperson Peter Stano also says: “The EU has repeatedly called on Israel to end all settlement activity, and to dismantle outposts erected since March 2001. It remains the EU’s firm position that settlements are illegal under international law. The EU calls upon both parties to avoid unilateral steps that could undermine the two-state solution.

“At this critical juncture for peace in the Middle East, these moves are also counterproductive in light of the positive developments of normalization agreements between Israel and a number of Arab states. We call upon the government of Israel to reverse these decisions on settlements and show leadership to rebuild trust and confidence between the parties, which is necessary for an eventual resumption of meaningful Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.”

Netanyahu vows to crack down on crime in Arab community, as with terrorism

In an online conference call with Arab mayors and local leaders, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vows to crack down on crime in the Arab community in the same way that Israel cracks down on terrorism.

In the Zoom call, which is boycotted by some local leaders who say it is merely a publicity stunt as part of the premier’s election campaign, Netanyahu also promises more state resources, nine new police stations, and personal meetings with mayors.

“We are embarking on a national mission,” Netanyahu says. “I plan to present a wide scale and long-term action plan in the coming days. The Arab public is prepared to treat and eliminate crime and violence, and I view it as a threat to us all.”

Mudar Younis, chairman of the National Committee of ​the Heads of the Arab Local Authorities in Israel, says many local councils believe that “even if the prime minister says violence must be defeated, we don’t see that in the field.”

He calls for a higher budget and sends a decision is needed that will trickle down to cops in the field.

Police detain Kremlin critic Navalny at Moscow airport

Russian police have detained Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny at a Moscow airport shortly after he landed on a flight from Berlin, an AFP journalist at the scene says.

Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh confirms that he has been detained, saying on Twitter: “Alexei was taken away by police officers at the border. With no explanation given.”

Pro-Trump demonstrations begin at US statehouses

Small groups of pro-Trump demonstrators, some armed, have begun gathering outside US statehouses, including in Michigan, Ohio, and South Carolina.

In Lansing, Michigan, state police troopers walk around the Capitol grounds as a small group of demonstrators stand near a chain-link fence surrounding the 142-year-old building. Several National Guard vehicles are on a nearby street. One armed man has falsely given his name as Duncan Lemp, a Maryland man who was killed in a no-knock police raid and became a martyr for a loose network of gun-toting, anti-government extremists.

A supporter of US President Donald Trump wears a red “Make American Great Again” hat, while standing on the lawn with a “Don’t Tread On Me” flag. The back of his shirt reads: “PATRIOT NOT RACIST NOT TERRORIST.”

In Columbus, Ohio, about two dozen people, several carrying long guns, gather outside the Capitol as dozens of state troopers and National Guard members guard multiple points around the Statehouse, including every entrance. Nearly every business around the downtown capital square is boarded up.

Several dozen people are gathering at the South Carolina Statehouse, some carrying American flags. It is not immediately clear if some in the group are also counter-protesters supportive of the incoming Biden administration.

A heavy law enforcement presence surrounds the government complex in downtown Columbia. The Capitol itself has been surrounded with metal barricades for several days, and state lawmakers have announced that they will not hold their scheduled in-person session this week because of the possible unrest.

Russian prison service confirms it detained Navalny

Russia’s prison service confirms it has detained Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny at a Moscow airport shortly after he landed on a flight from Berlin.

The prison service, the FSIN, says in a statement that it has detained Navalny for “multiple violations” of a 2014 suspended sentence for fraud charges, adding that “he will be held in custody” until a court ruling.

Egypt seizes assets of Morsi, 88 Muslim Brotherhood members

An Egyptian court has ordered the seizure of assets of former president Mohamed Morsi and 88 other members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, a judicial source says.

“The Court for Urgent Matters… ordered the seizure of the assets of 89 leaders and members of the Brotherhood, and their transfer to the treasury,” the source tells AFP, on condition of anonymity.

Islamist Morsi died in June 2019 while on trial, after six years in prison. The seizure applies to assets inherited by his family.

The move also targets the Brotherhood’s supreme guide Mohamed Badie, his deputy Khairat al-Shater, and former legislator Mohamed Beltagy, all imprisoned.

The source does not specify the value of the assets.

The seizure is one of several initiated by a commission charged with implementing a 2018 law on the “organization and management of the assets of terrorists and terrorist groups.”

Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, was ousted by the army after a year in power, on the back of mass protests against his presidency in 2013.

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, a retired general who led the military at the time of Morsi’s removal, has since overseen a crackdown on dissent.

Egypt has jailed thousands of members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood — blacklisted as a terrorist organization in 2013 — and executed dozens, while others have fled the country.

Morocco becomes 2nd Arab country to promote fighting anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism

With official government backing, a Moroccan institution has signed an agreement with the US State Department to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, the second such agreement in the Arab Middle East.

The agreement, signed Friday by El Mehdi Boudra, the president of Association Mimouna, and Elan Carr, the State Department’s envoy to combat anti-Semitism, signals the far-reaching ambition of the Trump Administration’s Abraham Accords, to normalize the acceptance of not just Israel, but of Zionism, among Arabs.

The Memorandum of Understanding says the sides “intend to work together to share and promote best practices for combating all forms of anti-Semitism, including anti-Zionism and the delegitimization of the State of Israel” and “for combating other kinds of intolerance and hatred, including Islamophobia.”

The agreement is similar to one signed in October between Carr and a Bahraini institution. In both cases, the signing organizations are not government bodies but have the blessing of the royal family. The Association Mimouna was founded in 2007 by Muslims who sought to preserve the country’s Jewish heritage.

The Abraham Accords, brokered by US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his top Middle East envoy, Avi Berkowitz, have encompassed four countries. In addition to Bahrain and Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan have agreed to normalization with Israel.

The agreement “reinforces the deep and longstanding partnership between our two countries in the fight against all forms of intolerance and the promotion of peace and mutual coexistence,” Morocco Ambassador to the United States Princess Lalla Joumala says in a statement. “It is an unwavering engagement spearheaded by His Majesty King Mohammed VI, who leads by example and upholds the proud heritage of tolerance perpetuated by His Forefathers.”

Sa’ar hires advisers from Project Lincoln, who campaign against Trump

In this August 26, 2012, photo, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, speaks to then Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar as they arrive at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Uriel Sinai/Getty Images, Pool, File)
In this August 26, 2012, photo, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, speaks to then Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar as they arrive at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Uriel Sinai/Getty Images, Pool, File)

Gideon Sa’ar, a right-wing Netanyahu rival who recently quit the ruling Likud party to run for prime minister as the head of the New Hope party, has hired several campaign advisers from Project Lincoln, who, in recent months, ran a campaign against outgoing US President Donald Trump, in an attempt to thwart his reelection bid, Channel 12 reports.

Lincoln Project founders Steve Schmidt, Rick Wilson, Stuart Stevens, and Reed Galen, who worked to persuade Republicans that Trump no longer represented them, will face a similar task in convincing the Israeli right that Sa’ar, not Netanyahu, is their true leader now.

A source close to the campaign confirms the report to The Times of Israel on condition of anonymity, and adds that they are likely to visit Israel as soon as possible.

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