The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they happened.
Erdogan announces Turkish national election to be held May 14
Turkey’s president announces May 14 as the date for the country’s next parliamentary and presidential elections.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who plans to seek reelection, made the announcement during a Saturday youth conference in northwestern Bursa province. A video of the event was released today.
“I thank God that we are destined to share our path with you, our valued youth, who will vote for the first time in the elections that will be held on May 14,” said Erdogan, who had hinted at the date last week.
He said in Bursa that he would make the formal call on March 10, after which Turkey’s Supreme Election Council would prepare for the elections.
If no candidate secures more than 50 percent of the vote, a second round of voting will be held on May 28.
Netanyahu said to tell US nat’l security adviser judicial reform plan to be softened
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told visiting US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan that the government’s controversial judicial overhaul will not be as dramatic as has been presented.
According to an unsourced report on Channel 12 news, Netanyahu told Sullivan last week in Jerusalem that he will work to ensure that any judicial reform is passed with wide agreement, and that it will be watered down from the version presented earlier this month by Justice Minister Yariv Levin.
In public comments, neither leader mentioned the issue, which dominated the headlines in Israel for weeks and made waves overseas as well.
According to Channel 13 news, US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides held several meetings in Israel in recent weeks in relation to US concerns over the planned overhaul. Nides told The Times of Israel in an interview that the US is not going to be “telling [Israel] how to construct their judicial system.”
Israeli hi-tech companies to strike for several hours Tuesday against government
Several major hi-tech companies in Israel will take part in a several-hour general strike on Tuesday in protest of the current government and its proposal to radically overhaul the judicial system.
The companies reportedly taking place include Lemonade, Cheetah Technologies, Luminescent, Natural Intelligence, and dozens of others.
Yet another mass protest against the government is slated for this Saturday night in Tel Aviv, after around 100,000 showed up last night.
KKL-JNF to move ahead with flashpoint tree planting in Negev
The Jewish National Fund-Keren Kayemet LeYisrael says it will move ahead with plans to plant trees near Nahal Yatir in the Negev, in what has in the past sparked violence.
JNF-KKL announces that it will carry out tree planting and other agricultural work in the area “without any delays,” though it did not provide a specific date for such activity, which often occurs around the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shvat, which begins this year on February 5.
Last year, rioting among Bedouin residents of the Negev broke out, with some setting fire to tires, blocking roads and hurling stones at civilian cars. Bedouins say the agricultural work encroaches on their unrecognized lands and that KKL-JNF is seeking to displace them.
Court orders 4 young women kept in custody on charges of smuggling cocaine
The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court extends by eight days the remand of four women suspected of attempting to smuggle more than 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of cocaine and ketamine worth millions of shekels into Israel last week.
The women raised suspicion while on a pair of flights from Germany to Ben Gurion Airport, with detectives tracking them after their arrival last Sunday night, police say.
Officers found a large amount of suspected cocaine and ketamine hidden in shampoo containers and food supplement packages in their suitcases and arrested them.
LA sheriff says California shooter still at large, described as Asian male
The gunman who killed 10 people and wounded 10 others in a mass shooting at a dance club in California during a Lunar Year celebration remains at large and has been described as an Asian man, law enforcement officials say.
The “male suspect fled the scene and remains outstanding,” Los Angeles County sheriff Robert Luna tells a press conference in the largely Asian city. Cautioning that the description remains preliminary, he says the suspect appeared to be an Asian male, but gave no further details.
Lutheran church in Jerusalem ordains first Palestinian female pastor in Holy Land
A Lutheran church ceremony in Jerusalem ordains the first Palestinian female pastor in the Holy Land.
Sally Azar will head the English-speaking congregation at the Church of the Redeemer, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land says.
Her ordination is held before a packed crowd inside the church in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Azar will be one of five ordained women in the Middle East, joining one in Syria and three in Lebanon, according to the Middle East Council of Churches.
Bomb alert reported on Ryanair flight from Poland to Greece
Greek warplanes scramble to escort a Ryanair flight from Poland to Greece with over 190 people on board after a bomb alert was reported to authorities, a Defense Ministry source says.
Two F-16 jets were dispatched to escort the flight, from Katowice to Athens, as it entered Greek airspace from North Macedonia, the source tells AFP. The plane had earlier been escorted by Hungarian warplanes, the official adds.
The plane lands at an isolated location at Athens International Airport shortly before 1600 GMT and is under inspection by a bomb disposal team, state news agency ANA says.
It is not immediately clear who made the bomb claim.
Likud MK says it ‘will be difficult’ to bring Deri back as a minister
Likud MK David Bitan tells Army Radio that it will be difficult for the government to bring Shas chief Aryeh Deri back as a minister after the High Court barred him from office.
“It will be difficult to bring Deri back to the government,” Bitan says. “Netanyahu don’t want to get to a ‘dual-leader’ situation that there was with [Yair] Lapid and [Naftali] Bennett,” says the MK, referring to the rotation deal between the former prime ministers, with each holding the post of alternate prime minister while the other was in office.
“We’re checking all the options, but it’s completely clear that there is no alternative — without Shas and without Deri there will be no keeping this government alive.”
30 female political prisoners in Iran urge end to protester executions
Thirty women political prisoners in Iran, including a Franco-Iranian academic and the daughter of a former president, demand an end to the executions of protesters in the country.
“We, the political and ideological prisoners in the women’s ward of Evin Prison, demand an end to the execution of protesters and an end to unjust sentences of prisoners in Iran,” they say in a petition.
The women inmates say they had been “sentenced to a total of 124 years in prison through unfair and non-transparent procedures, which is worth a few generations of human life.”
Despite coming from different religious and political backgrounds, “we have come together to say ‘no’ to execution. We defend people’s right to live in justice.”
Activists attempt to reestablish illegal settlement outpost in northern West Bank
Radical settler activists attempt to reestablish an illegal settlement outpost called Or Haim in the northern West Bank after police and Civil Administration forces evacuated and destroyed structures at the site on Friday.
Video footage disseminated from the nascent outpost, east of the large settlement of Ariel, shows activists erecting various structures and security forces approaching the area and demanding the work halt and the activists disperse.
According to activists, seven people are detained at the site. Police officials do not immediately comment on the events.
A statement released in the name of the families says they will “continue to hold on to the hilltop even if we are evacuated 100 times.”
Five families established Or Haim on Thursday night, located next to the Migdalim settlement and overlooking the Trans-Samarian highway, including a grandson of the late Rabbi Haim Druckman, after whom the outpost is named.
The outpost was evacuated and destroyed on the orders of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, causing immediate tensions within the coalition between Likud and the ultra-nationalist Religious Zionism and Otzma Yehudit parties.
Air Force says IAI Heron 1 drone ‘gradually’ returning to service
The Israeli Air Force says it is “gradually” returning a fleet of armed drones to service after one aircraft was damaged during takeoff yesterday.
An initial probe of the incident found that what caused the IAI Heron 1 drone to be damaged was not a “widespread technical problem in the fleet,” the IAF says.
IAF chief Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar orders a “gradual return of the fleet to activity, while performing required preparatory actions,” a statement says.
A military source says the craft that was damaged during the incident was taken to be repaired.
The Heron 1 has seen several crashes due to various malfunctions in recent years. In November, a Heron 1 crashed near the southern city of Arad, causing a fire and leading to the grounding of the entire fleet for a month, until repairs were made to a faulty flight control component that had apparently caused the crash.
Building collapse in war-damaged Syrian city of Aleppo kills 16
A building collapses in Syria’s war-damaged second-largest city of Aleppo, killing 16 people including children, authorities and media report.
“The number of victims of the residential building collapse… has risen to 16 dead,” says state news agency SANA.
Only one person has been rescued alive from the rubble of the five-story building, which was home to seven families, Syria’s interior ministry says.
A Kurdish news agency says five children are among the dead. The victims include Syrians who had been displaced during the country’s years of fighting, a war monitor says. Locals tells AFP that about 35 people lived in the building.
Days after evacuated of outpost, Ben Gvir demands 6 Palestinian structures be razed
Public Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir issues a demand in the cabinet meeting for the destruction of what he says are six illegal structures built by Palestinians in Area C over the last month, as well as the illegal Khan al Ahmar Bedouin encampment.
The leader of the ultra-nationalist Otzma Yehudit party presents a document to the cabinet with aerial photos of what is allegedly illegal Palestinian construction and precise coordinates of the structures pictured.
Ben Gvir’s demand comes following the evacuation and destruction of an illegal Israeli settlement outpost in the northern West Bank on Friday by personnel from the Civil Administration unit and police and Border Police forces, which angered the ultra-nationalist parties in the coalition.
“The law is the law and there is one law for all. I will not accept racism against Jews on my watch. Just as the defense minister chose to destroy a Jewish outpost, we demand that illegal Arab construction in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] be destroyed,” says the Otzma Yehudit leader.
Right-wing Israeli NGOs and activist groups allege that unauthorized Palestinian construction in Area C of the West Bank, which is under full Israeli control, is not subject to the same enforcement as unauthorized Israeli construction, and that widespread Palestinian construction is part of a coordinated effort to establish territorial contiguity between Areas A and B of the territory which are under Palestinian control but are geographically fragmented.
Planning for the construction of several thousand housing units in legal Israeli settlements are approved each year by the Civil Administration, whereas authorization for Palestinian construction is very rarely issued.
Shots reported fired toward West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba
Shots are fired at the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, causing no injuries, local officials say.
According to a spokesperson for the settlement, several shots were directed at the Gal neighborhood, close to an industrial zone.
The Rescuers Without Borders emergency service says no injuries were caused, but a home may have been hit by the gunfire.
Kiryat Arba says there are no special instructions for residents following the shooting.
There is no immediate comment from the military on the incident.
Most FMs boycott Arab League meeting in Tripoli amid dispute over Libyan government
A handful of Arab chief diplomats meet in the Libyan capital in a gathering boycotted by powerful foreign ministers who argue that the mandate of the Tripoli-based government has ended.
Five of the 22 member states of the Arab League send their foreign ministers to the periodic, consultative meeting. They include the chief diplomats of neighboring Algeria and Tunisia, local media reports. Others send their envoys to the meeting in Tripoli.
Among those boycotting the gathering is Egypt, which questions the legitimacy of Prime Minister Abdel Hamid Dbeibah’s government after Libya’s east-based parliament appointed a rival premier last year. The foreign ministers of Gulf monarchies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also do not attend.
Likud denies it is seeking to bring Gantz or Lapid into coalition
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party denies that it is exploring the possibility of adding centrist parties to its hardline right-wing government, just an hour after Netanyahu complied with court order to fire Shas leader Aryeh Deri from his cabinet.
“The reports that Netanyahu will contact Gantz or Lapid to join the government are an invention that never happened,” a statement from the Likud party reads, denying that National Unity’s Benny Gantz and Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid are being sought for an alliance.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu established a right-wing government [to last] for four years — and so it will be,” the statement adds.
Deri to stay on as vice premier after being fired as minister
Shas leader Aryeh Deri will retain his title of vice premier after being stripped of his ministerial roles, confirms his spokesman.
It is unclear whether this will give Deri the ability to attend cabinet meetings as an observer.
Shortly after firing Deri, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly left the cabinet meeting and had Deri run the meeting in his stead.
IDF officer who shot Palestinian attacker to receive military citation
The Israel Defense Forces will award an officer who shot a Palestinian attacker dead — after he rammed into him and tried to attack him with a pickaxe in November — with one of its highest honors.
Lt. “Aleph” — who can only be identified by the first initial of his name in Hebrew — the deputy commander of the Barak company in the 894th Tavor Home Front Command Search and Rescue Battalion, was seriously hurt in the attack on November 2, 2022 at the Bell checkpoint along Route 443.
The Palestinian attacker rammed his van into Aleph at the checkpoint, then got out of the car and tried to attack the officer with a pickaxe. The officer, despite being seriously wounded, managed to shoot back and kill the attacker, Habas Rayan, 54, from the West Bank village of Bayt Duqu.
Aleph will receive a citation from the commander of the IDF’s West Bank Division, Brig. Ben. Avi Blot, approved by the chief of the IDF Central Command, Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, and the chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi.
“He prevented a larger attack that could have happened. The officer demonstrated high abilities of levelheadedness, precision and dedication to protecting his soldiers and the citizens of Israel, and is an example of what is expected of a soldier and commander in the IDF,” says Blot.
United Torah Judaism says it will continue to treat Deri as a minister
United Torah Judaism leader Construction and Housing Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf says he and his party will continue to treat Shas chief Aryeh Deri as a minister, despite him being fired by the government following a High Court ruling.
“UTJ will work as much as it can and will be a partner to any move to quickly return him to the government table,” says Goldknopf in a statement. “In terms of our ministries [those under UTJ control], Deri will continue to be the [health and interior] minister and that’s how we will relate to him.”
Lapid pans ‘circus’ government as Deri sacked, Religious Zionism boycotts cabinet meeting
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid calls the government a “circus” in his response to the firing of Shas leader Aryeh Deri from his ministerial roles, plus Religious Zionism’s boycott of the weekly cabinet meeting.
“In the government meeting today they fired Minister Deri because of corruption, but what about the Religious Zionism ministers who were absent, protesting the defense minister who abides by the law,” Lapid says.
“The elderly, students, the cost of living, violence on our streets, parents, and youth. Israeli citizens don’t need to pay the price of corruption and the insanity of this government,” he adds.
Deri says there was never a doubt he’d abide by court decision, emphasizes he’ll remain Shas chief
Shas chair Aryeh Deri responds to the decision by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to fire him from his ministerial roles.
“I hear the sadness in your voice over the court decision and its consequences,” he says.
Deri says it was clear that the two would abide by the court decision as soon as it was made, and appears to contrast that dutiful adherence to the judges’ ruling with opposition activism against the coalition’s planned judicial overhaul. “There was no doubt about that at any stage,” he says, contrasting this to those who talk about the primacy of the rule of law while calling “to breach the public order and to breach Knesset and government decisions.”
Deri denies he made any pledge to resign from political life as part of his plea deal last year, and says this was clear to the state prosecution and the attorney general at the time. “My government colleagues and the public should know this,” he says. “I have no intention, and I never had the intention, and I never committed to withdrawing from political life. This was clearly put on the table from the start of the discussions [on my plea bargain] until their end,” he says.
“I have an ironclad obligation to 400,000 people that voted for me and Shas. No judicial decision will prevent me from serving and representing them,” he says.
Deri explicitly notes that he will continue in his role as a Knesset member and chair of his party, and will continue to participate in the meetings of the coalition’s party chiefs, “helping to advance the important judicial processes that this government has chosen to advance in order to strengthen and underpin governance, to protect the Jewish identity of the State of Israel, and to help the weaker echelons and bring them out of the cycle of poverty, as I declared when the plea bargain was approved.”
‘With the worst possible feeling,’ Netanyahu fires Deri from ministerial roles, adhering to High Court ruling
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fires Shas leader Aryeh Deri from his roles as health and interior minister.
Netanyahu, speaking to Deri, says: “I am compelled, with a heavy heart, with great sorrow and with the worst possible feeling, to remove you from your position as a minister in the government.”
The decision comes following a High Court ruling on Wednesday barring Deri from ministerial office, due both to his past criminal convictions and his promise to resign from political life as part of a plea bargain last year after his conviction for tax offenses.
Netanyahu vows to find a “legal way” for Deri to continue serving the State of Israel.
Deri’s dismissal takes effect in 48 hours, by when Netanyahu will need to find new ministers to take over Deri’s responsibilities.
Netanyahu reads Deri from the text of a letter he has prepared, which states in full:
“As you know, I decided to appoint you as deputy prime minister, interior minister and health minister, with the approval of a majority of Knesset members, because of the fact that I regard you as a font of experience, wisdom and responsibility that are so important for the State of Israel, at any time and especially at this moment. I reasoned that it was important that you serve the State of Israel as a member of the security-diplomatic cabinet in my government, where you could be of influence, given your years of experience as a member of cabinet in the governments of the late prime ministers Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin — rich experience that contributed to Israel’s security and resilience.
“To my great sorrow, despite all this, the Supreme Court, sitting as the High Court of Justice, decided on January 18, 2023, that I am required to remove you from your role as minister of the interior and health. This unfortunate decision ignores the will of the people, as shown by the considerable trust that the public placed in the elected representatives who sit in my government, when it was clear to all that you would serve in the government as a senior minister.
“I intend to seek any legal way whereby you can continue to contribute to the State of Israel with your experience and many talents, in accordance with the will of the people. Nevertheless, in the wake of the instructions in the aforementioned verdict, I must inform you that in accordance with Clause 22 (b) of Basic Law: The Government, I am compelled, with a heavy heart, great sorrow and the worst possible feeling, to remove you from your position as a minister in the government. With great appreciation.”
9 killed in mass shooting near LA after Lunar New Year festival
MONTEREY PARK, California — Nine people were killed in a mass shooting late Saturday in a city east of Los Angeles following a Lunar New Year celebration that attracted thousands, police say.
Sgt. Bob Boese of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department says the shooting occurred at a business on Garvey Ave. in Monterey Park. The shooter is a male, Boese says early Sunday.
Officials provide no information for several hours after dozens of police officers had responded to reports of the shooting.
Monterey Park is a city of about 60,000 people with a large Asian population that’s about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from downtown Los Angeles.
Seung Won Choi, who owns the Clam House seafood barbecue restaurant across the street from where the shooting happened, tells the Los Angles Times that three people rushed into his business and told him to lock the door.
The people also told Choi that there was a shooter with a machine gun who had multiple rounds of ammunition on him so he could reload. Choi says he believes the shooting took place at a dance club.
The newspaper reports that the shooting happened after 10 p.m.
Knesset law panel begins debating MK Rothman’s judicial overhaul bill
The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee begins a discussion on a private member’s bill brought by its chair on overhauling the country’s judicial system.
Opposition MKs are boycotting the session.
Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rothman’s plan, released Tuesday night, diverges from Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s earlier proposal in that it sets out a different a Judicial Selection Committee makeup, would not alter the process for appointing the Supreme Court president, requires unanimous agreement among all 15 Supreme Court justices to strike down a law, and presents a more narrow curtailment of the “reasonableness” judicial test.
Two student protesters break into the session, with one student labeling the reforms “a coup, a blatant cancelation of the separation of powers.”
Another says: “You are taking democracy away from us.”
Russia pushing towards two towns in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region
Moscow’s forces are pushing towards two towns in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, where fighting intensified this week after several months of a stagnant front, Russian state media reports Sunday.
A Russian-installed official in the region Vladimir Rogov says offensive actions were concentrated around two towns: Orikhiv, around 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Ukrainian-controlled regional capital Zaporizhzhia, and Hulyaipole, further east.
“The front is mobile, especially in two directions: Orikhiv and Hulyaipole,” Rogov is quoted as saying by the Ria Novosti news agency.
He says there was active fighting in those areas, according to the agency.
“The initiative is in our hands.”
Netanyahu makes no mention of court ruling, thanks Deri for 2023 health ‘basket’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opens his weekly cabinet meeting, thanking Shas chair Aryeh Deri, who is currently health minister along with interior minister, for expanding the 2023 healthcare “basket.” But Netanyahu makes no mention of the High Court ruling disqualifying him from serving as minister.
Netanyahu also describes his meeting last week with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, listing Iran among the several security challenges discussed.
“I must say that there is a serious mutual desire to reach an understanding on this issue, which is of crucial importance to the security of the country. Discussions on the subject will take place in the coming weeks between Jerusalem and Washington,” the prime minister says.
Deri arrives at cabinet meeting despite High Court ruling barring him from office
Shas chair Aryeh Deri arrives at the government’s first cabinet meeting of the week, despite a High Court ruling on Wednesday disqualifying him from serving in the role.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly expected to ask for him to tender his resignation within 48 hours.
Ministers from Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism party are boycotting the meeting over Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s decision on Friday to evacuate a West Bank outpost established in memory of late Religious Zionist spiritual leader Rabbi Chaim Druckman, despite their objections.
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