ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 143

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Shin Bet chief warns against sealing off E. J’lem areas as response to attacks — TV

Report says Ronen Bar, other security officials pushed back on demands by far-right ministers for varying levels of lockdowns on Palestinian neighborhoods in city

Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar, November 6, 2022. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar, November 6, 2022. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

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

Blinken says restoring calm between Israel and Palestinians a top priority

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits the American University in the Egyptian capital Cairo, on Januray 29, 2023. (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/ Pool/ AFP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits the American University in the Egyptian capital Cairo, on Januray 29, 2023. (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/ Pool/ AFP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says that restoring calm between Israel and the Palestinians, following a weekend of deadly violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank, is a top priority.

“The most important thing in the near term is to try to get some calm,” Blinken says in an interview with Al Arabiya while in Cairo — the first stop on a trip through the region.

He will arrive in Jerusalem tomorrow for meetings with senior Israeli leaders, followed by a sit-down with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday in Ramallah.

“I’ll have more to say about that in the next couple of days when we go there. I think we’ve seen horrific terrorist attacks in the last couple of days that we condemn and deplore. President Biden has spoken to this. We also see civilian loss of life that is very deeply disturbing,” Blinken tells the Saudi broadcaster.

“I want the chance to speak to the Israeli government, to the Palestinian Authority leadership, to hear from people as well who are being affected by this in their daily lives,” he adds.

Shin Bet chief warns against sealing off East J’lem areas as response to attacks – TV

Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar, November 6, 2022. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar, November 6, 2022. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar warned ministers that any move to seal off parts of East Jerusalem as a response to recent terror attacks could lead to a much broader conflagration, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

The report says Bar and other security officials pushed back during the cabinet meeting against calls by Public Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich to impose varying levels of lockdowns on neighborhoods in Jerusalem, warning that any measures against those not directly involved in attacks could further inflame tensions.

6 Palestinians arrested in clashes with police in East Jerusalem

A bin is set on fire during clashes in East Jerusalem's Beit Hanina neighborhood, January 29, 2023. (Israel Police)
A bin is set on fire during clashes in East Jerusalem's Beit Hanina neighborhood, January 29, 2023. (Israel Police)

Police say officers are dealing with violent protests in several East Jerusalem neighborhoods this evening.

In the neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, police say an officer fired into the air after “feeling threatened,” after dozens of masked Palestinians hurled stones and launched fireworks.

There are no reports of injuries.

Police say officers arrest six suspects in the Beit Hanina neighborhood, after they allegedly set fire to bins, hurled stones, and launched fireworks.

“Police will use all the necessary tools and measures to deal decisively and aggressively with anyone who tries to harm citizens or the security forces,” a police spokesperson says.

There have been clashes in East Jerusalem for several days now, as tensions are high across the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and in the capital.

Foreign Ministry: Lavrov called Cohen to offer condolences after deadly J’lem terror attack

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, in the wake of Friday night’s deadly terror attack, to offer his condolences in a short conversation, the Foreign Ministry tells The Times of Israel.

Religious Zionism MK Ohad Tal involved in car crash

Religious Zionism MK Ohad Tal attends a committee meeting at the Knesset on December 6, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/ Flash90)
Religious Zionism MK Ohad Tal attends a committee meeting at the Knesset on December 6, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/ Flash90)

Religious Zionism MK Ohad Tal was involved in a car crash this evening.

“After a medical examination, he will continue home to rest,” a statement from his office says, without specifying whether he was hurt.

No further details about the incident were provided.

Russia’s Lavrov urges ‘maximum responsibility’ in calls with Israeli, PA counterparts

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a joint news conference in Moscow, Russia, December 23, 2022. (Evgenia Novozhenina/ Pool Photo via AP)
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a joint news conference in Moscow, Russia, December 23, 2022. (Evgenia Novozhenina/ Pool Photo via AP)

MOSCOW, Russia — Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged “maximum responsibility” in calls today with his Israeli and Palestinian Authority counterparts, following recent terror attacks in Jerusalem, the foreign ministry in Moscow says.

Lavrov “called on the Israeli and Palestinian partners to show maximum responsibility and refrain from any actions that could provoke further degradation of the situation” in phone calls with Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and PA counterpart Riyad al-Maliki, the ministry says in a statement.

“The Russian side emphasized that Moscow is seriously concerned about the new round of violence in the zone of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” the ministry adds.

IDF confirms losing drone in Gaza after Hamas announced capturing it

The Israel Defense Forces confirms it lost a drone in the Gaza Strip on Friday, after the Hamas terror group announced earlier today that it had captured the device.

“An IDF drone fell in the Gaza Strip during operational activity over the weekend,” a military spokesperson tells The Times of Israel.

“The incident is under investigation,” the spokesperson adds.

Cabinet extends secrecy order covering activities of state-owned oil infrastructure firms

An oil tanker docks at the Europe Asia Pipeline Company port in Eilat in southern Israel, on May 4, 2021. (Shmulik Taggar)
An oil tanker docks at the Europe Asia Pipeline Company port in Eilat in southern Israel, on May 4, 2021. (Shmulik Taggar)

Ministers vote to extend for a further five years a veil of secrecy over the activities of a state-owned oil infrastructure conglomerate.

The order, which must be okayed by the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, will continue to prevent publication of most information about the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company (known today as the Europe Asia Pipeline Company), Eilat Corporation SA or Trans Asiatic Oil Ltd.

All were set up in the late 1960s as part of a quiet and now long-defunct deal between Israel and the shah’s Iran, which saw Iranian crude transported overland between Eilat on the Red Sea Coast and Ashkelon on the Mediterranean, from where it was shipped to Europe.

The deal came to end after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Iran has sought compensation ever since and in 2015 an arbitration panel ordered Israel to pay Tehran $1.1 billion. Israel has refused to do so, however, saying trade law forbids it from sending money to an enemy state.

Over 300 objections were filed against the secrecy move, and critics react to the extension by pointing to the EAPC’s pollution record, also charging that secrecy order was too wide and all-encompassing and did not allow any oversight of the companies’ activities.

A Justice Ministry opinion counters by saying confidentiality is important to “securing the interests of the state.”

Hamas claims to capture IDF drone over Gaza; no comment from military

A picture released by Hamas shows an alleged IDF drone that the Gaza-ruling terror group claimed to bring down and capture on January 29, 2023. (Courtesy)
A picture released by Hamas shows an alleged IDF drone that the Gaza-ruling terror group claimed to bring down and capture on January 29, 2023. (Courtesy)

The military wing of Hamas claims to have downed and captured an Israeli military drone over the Gaza Strip on Friday.

In a statement, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades says the drone was captured while “on a special mission inside the Gaza Strip” during an Israeli Air Force airstrike in response to rocket attacks on southern Israel.

Hamas claims to have “extracted important sensitive information” from the device.

The Israel Defense Forces has no immediate comment on the matter.

Daughter of woman hurt in Jerusalem attack: Terrorist told our mom he doesn’t shoot women

The terrorist who murdered seven people near a synagogue in Jerusalem on Friday night told people at the scene that he wouldn’t shoot women — before murdering a woman, according to eyewitness accounts.

Leora, whose mother and sister were at the scene of the deadly attack in Neve Yaakov, tells Kan public radio that her mother had already been shot and wounded when the terrorist advanced toward them.

“When he got to them, they said ‘please don’t shoot us,’ and he turned around and said ‘I don’t shoot women,'” Leora tells the radio station. He kept moving, she said, “and it seems that one of the women confronted him and he just shot her in the head.”

Alqam Khayri, a 21-year-old from East Jerusalem, shot and killed seven people — including two women — before he was shot and killed by police officers. It was the deadliest Palestinian terror attack against Israelis since 2008.

Israel carried out drone attack on Iranian defense facility — WSJ

Israel was behind a drone attack that struck a defense facility in the Iranian city of Isfahan, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing US officials and people familiar with the matter.

The American newspaper says the strike was the first to be carried out by Israel since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned last month, adding it comes amid talks between Jerusalem and Washington on new ways to counter Tehran.

The report also says the drones targeted a munitions factory next to a facility belonging to the Iran Space Research Center, which is under US sanctions for its alleged work on ballistic missiles.

Iranian FM denounces drone attack as ‘cowardly’

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian meets with his Qatari counterpart in the capital Tehran, on January 29, 2023. (Atta Kenare/AFP)
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian meets with his Qatari counterpart in the capital Tehran, on January 29, 2023. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran condemns a “cowardly” nighttime drone attack that targeted a defense ministry site, at a time of high tensions over its nuclear program and Russia’s war in Ukraine.

An anti-aircraft system destroyed one drone and two others exploded, the ministry said, adding that there were no casualties and only minor damage to the site in the central province of Isfahan.

“This cowardly act was carried out today as part of the efforts made by enemies of the Iranian nation in recent months to make the Islamic Republic insecure,” Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian says today at a press conference with his visiting Qatari counterpart, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani.

“Such measures cannot affect the will and intention of our specialists for peaceful nuclear developments,” he adds.

Man arrested for attacking journalists at site of Jerusalem terror attack

Channel 13 reporters and film crew heckled as they report from the scene of a terror attack in Jerusalem, January 28, 2023. (Twitter/used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Channel 13 reporters and film crew heckled as they report from the scene of a terror attack in Jerusalem, January 28, 2023. (Twitter/used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Police announce the arrest of a man suspected of attacking a news crew that was accosted while broadcasting from the scene of a deadly terror shooting in Jerusalem’s Neve Yaakov neighborhood.

According to police, the suspect — a Jerusalem resident in his 30s — threatened and “acted wildly” toward the journalists from Channel 13 news. He was arrested on suspicion of making threats and assault.

Police say the suspect was taken for questioning after the arrest.

“We call on the public to refrain from displays of thuggery and violence of all types, both toward journalists doing their jobs on the ground and toward any other person,” a police statement says.

Netanyahu urges further measures against ‘those in terrorists’ immediate proximity’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on January 29, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on January 29, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls for further measures against terrorists’ families following this weekend’s shooting attacks in Jerusalem, including revoking their residency or citizenship and deporting them to territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

A statement from Netanyahu’s office says the premier demanded that legislation on the matter be prepared, as well as a bill to allow employers to fire workers who express support for terror without the usual required hearing.

The Prime Minister’s Office says the government backs expediting any bill that “strengthens deterrence by exacting a price from those in terrorists’ immediate proximity.”

Government backs sealing home of 13-year-old Jerusalem terrorist

Police at the scene of a terror shooting attack near Jerusalem's Old City, on January 28, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Police at the scene of a terror shooting attack near Jerusalem's Old City, on January 28, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ministers vote to have security forces seal off the home of a 13-year-old Palestinian from East Jerusalem who wounded two Israelis in a terror shooting yesterday.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir says the government also agreed to change the policy moving forward to allow for a home to be sealed even if the terrorist didn’t kill anyone and will hold a deliberation on the matter.

Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar has been asked to draw up a legal opinion on the matter.

The Prime Minister’s Office says today’s vote only changed the policy in this specific case.

Grandson born to Jerusalem terror victim hours after he was killed in shooting

Rafael Ben Eliyahu, 56, killed in a Jerusalem terror attack on January 27, 2023. (Courtesy)
Rafael Ben Eliyahu, 56, killed in a Jerusalem terror attack on January 27, 2023. (Courtesy)

The son of one of the seven people who died in a terror shooting in Jerusalem on Friday reveals his wife gave birth to a son hours after his father Rafael Ben Eliyahu was killed.

“You and mom were supposed to come to the bris, but ultimately you were not able to hold [your grandson],” Kobi Ben Eliyahu says during the funeral in Jerusalem. “Instead, I’m bringing you to the cemetery. You left a giant hole in our hearts.”

Another of Ben Eliyahu’s sons was seriously wounded in the attack, but his condition has since improved.

Ministers vote to scrap tax on disposable plasticware, pending Knesset approval

Disposable plastic tableware for sale in Givat Shaul, Jerusalem, October 27, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/File)
Disposable plastic tableware for sale in Givat Shaul, Jerusalem, October 27, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/File)

Government ministers vote in favor of scrapping a tax on disposable plasticware, a key demand of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox coalition partners.

“We promised and fulfilled,” Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich says. “The fight against the cost of living is all of our fight.”

The move is pending Knesset approval.

Israel is the second biggest consumer of single-use plastic in the world per capita and 90 percent of its beach trash is plastic.

In November 2021, the previous government raised the cost of disposable plastic plates, bowls, cups, and straws by NIS 11 shekels ($3.20) per kilogram with the aim of cutting use by 40 percent.

This drew the ire of the ultra-Orthodox community, where use of disposable plastic is disproportionately high.

Earlier this month, in his first act in office, Smotrich instructed ministry officials to reverse the tax hike, sparking uproar from environmental activists and others.

Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman votes against canceling the tax.

She says in a statement that while she understands the need to respect coalition agreements, which include scrapping the levy, disposal plastic use causes “huge” environmental and health-related damage.

“We will formulate the best alternative for all the citizens of Israel,” Silman says.

Silman argues that from the very start, Israel should have instituted a “gradual process” rather than imposing a decision that “arouses antagonism toward a particular population,” though she was chief whip of the coalition that approved the tax.

She adds: “Since the tax has proven itself and resulted in a significant reduction in consumption and the reduction of environmental and health damage caused by the use of disposable utensils… this taxation should not be abolished without a suitable alternative.”

Defense minister says Israel wants calm but won’t hesitate to crack down on terror

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks to reporters after an assessment at the IDF's West Bank headquarters, January 29, 2023. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks to reporters after an assessment at the IDF's West Bank headquarters, January 29, 2023. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, speaking after an assessment at the military’s West Bank headquarters, says Israel seeks calm but will not hesitate to act against terror.

“Every terrorist will either go to court or to the cemetery,” Gallant says to reporters.

“We will enact offensive and proactive actions against those who try to harm our children,” he says.

“Anyone who helps the terrorists will be harmed. If it is necessary we will destroy their houses. We will deprive them of their rights. If necessary, we will expel them,” Gallant adds.

“We will not allow our blood to be spilled. We will do what is necessary to bring them to justice,” he continues.

“At the same time, we want to calm the area down. This means that anyone who behaves well will be able to work and make a living. We want a better future for the Palestinian population, for anyone who behaves according to the law,” he adds.

Qatar joins consortium exploring for Lebanon’s offshore gas

Left to right: Qatar's Minister of State for Energy Affairs Saad Sherida al-Kaabi, Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Lebanon's caretaker Energy Minister Walid Fayad attend a joint signing ceremony for offshore gas exploration in the capital Beirut on January 29, 2023. (Anwar Amro/AFP)
Left to right: Qatar's Minister of State for Energy Affairs Saad Sherida al-Kaabi, Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Lebanon's caretaker Energy Minister Walid Fayad attend a joint signing ceremony for offshore gas exploration in the capital Beirut on January 29, 2023. (Anwar Amro/AFP)

BEIRUT — Qatar announces it has entered a consortium to explore Lebanese offshore gas in waters bordering Israel, following a historic maritime border deal last year between the two foes.

The agreement greenlights Lebanon’s exploration of its southern Qana, or Sidon, reservoir following the signing of the landmark deal last October demarcating its maritime borders with long-time enemy Israel.

The deal will see the gas-rich Gulf country’s state-run QatarEnergy receive a minority 30 percent stake in two blocks of Lebanon’s exclusive economic zone, according to Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

French company TotalEnergies and Italy’s Eni will both retain 35 percent shares in the blocks after Russia’s Novatek relinquished its minority stake in 2022.

Lebanese Energy Minister Walid Fayad and his Qatari counterpart Saad al-Kaabi, who is also QatarEnergy’s chief executive, signed the deal today, along with the Eni and TotalEnergies chiefs.

Under a United States-brokered accord, Lebanon and Israel, which are officially still at war, delimited their maritime borders in October 2022.

The accord paved the way for Lebanon to begin exploration in the Qana reservoir — which is partly located inside Israel’s territorial waters — in return for compensation payments.

Of dozens arrested after deadly Jerusalem attack, 5 to remain in custody

Police outside the home of the Palestinian terrorist who killed seven people in a terror attack, in Jerusalem's A-Tur neighborhood, January 28, 2023. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)
Police outside the home of the Palestinian terrorist who killed seven people in a terror attack, in Jerusalem's A-Tur neighborhood, January 28, 2023. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)

Police say of the dozens of suspects arrested following Friday night’s deadly shooting attack in Jerusalem, five are to remain held over suspicions they were involved in the attack.

Police say the terrorist’s mother will remain in custody until February 1, and two additional suspects will be held until January 31.

The terrorist’s cousin will be brought before a court later today to extend his remand, police say.

And a Palestinian man from the West Bank who was arrested this morning will be brought for a remand hearing later this week, it adds.

IDF to send 2 companies to reinforce cops in Jerusalem, seam zone

IDF soldiers are seen operating along the West Bank barrier, in an image published by the military on April 2, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces, file)
IDF soldiers are seen operating along the West Bank barrier, in an image published by the military on April 2, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces, file)

The Israel Defense Forces says it is deploying two infantry companies to assist police in the Jerusalem area and in Israeli towns near the West Bank security barrier.

The decision is made following a new assessment top army officials held.

The companies are of the Givati and Golani brigades who are currently in basic-training. A statement from the military says the troops will be deployed tomorrow.

Diaspora minister: Palestinian Authority a ‘neo-Nazi entity’ that should be replaced

Likud MK Amichai Chikli at a conference in Tel Aviv, December 7, 2022 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Likud MK Amichai Chikli at a conference in Tel Aviv, December 7, 2022 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli says that the Palestinian Authority is a “neo-Nazi entity” and that alternatives to it should be examined.

“I see the Palestinian Authority as a neo-Nazi entity in its essence and outlook,” Chikli tells the Ynet news site.

“I think that the Palestinian Authority, as of today, is the enemy of the State of Israel. We still do not have any peace agreement with it. It is an enemy entity, an entity that is antisemitic to its core, and we need to examine alternatives to the Palestinian Authority,” he says.

“The most anti-Semitic political entity on earth is the Palestinian Authority, in which 93% of the population advocates anti-Semitic positions,” Chikli says, referring to a 2014 report by the Anti-Defamation League.

“The address for this is the Palestinian Authority itself and its leader, an avowed Holocaust denier, who accused Israel of committing 50 holocausts while standing on German soil,” he adds, referring to the fiercely criticized speech last year by PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

“The PA has pay-to-slay — the more Jews you kill, the more money you get. [The PA] is the source of the problems and terror,” he says.

Lamenting ‘death spiral,’ pope urges Israelis and Palestinians to ‘search for peace’

Pope Francis presides over an Epiphany mass in St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, on January 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Pope Francis presides over an Epiphany mass in St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, on January 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis condemns a resurgence of violence in the Middle East, urging Israelis and Palestinians to engage in a “sincere search for peace.”

“The death spiral that increases day by day only closes the few glimmers of trust that exist between the two peoples,” says the pope following his traditional Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square.

His comments come after a pair of terror shootings in Jerusalem over the weekend, including one that left seven civilians dead, and a rise in deadly clashes in the West Bank that has left 32 Palestinians dead, many of them gunmen but also several uninvolved civilians.

Blinken lands in Cairo, kicking off trip that includes stops in Jerusalem, Ramallah

In this file photo taken on January 20, 2023, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks after a roundtable discussion with leaders from the Ukrainian diaspora, at the Ukrainian Cultural Center in Chicago. (Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP)
In this file photo taken on January 20, 2023, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks after a roundtable discussion with leaders from the Ukrainian diaspora, at the Ukrainian Cultural Center in Chicago. (Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in Cairo, kicking off a Middle East trip that will also take him to Jerusalem and Ramallah.

Blinken’s trip follows two terror shootings in Jerusalem this weekend, including a deadly attack on Friday night in which seven people were killed.

It also comes amid surging violence in the West Bank, with 32 Palestinians killed in fighting this month. The IDF says the majority of them were killed while carrying out attacks during clashes with security forces. Some were uninvolved civilians.

In Egypt, Blinken was to speak with students at the American University in the city before holding talks with Egyptian officials, including President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, with the Jerusalem attacks and West Bank violence likely to figure in their talks.

Tomorrow, he is scheduled to travel to Israel for the most critical leg of the visit, for talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials.

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