ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 142

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US blasts ‘unilateral actions’ during UN session on Ben Gvir’s Temple Mount visit

Move by new national security minister has been widely decried by Western, Arab allies; Israel pushing body to not issue a joint statement censuring the Jewish state

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir visits the Temple Mount, January 3, 2023. (Courtesy Minhelet Har Habayit)
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir visits the Temple Mount, January 3, 2023. (Courtesy Minhelet Har Habayit)

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

At UN Security Council, US says opposes all ‘unilateral actions’ against status quo

NEW YORK — US Ambassador to the UN Robert A. Wood tells the Security Council that Washington is concerned about climbing tensions between Israel and the Palestinians at an emergency session on National Security Minister Ben Gvir’s visit to the Temple Mount.

Wood does not reveal how the US will vote during the Security Council session. The US effectively has veto power against both council resolutions and statements.

“We are concerned by any unilateral acts that exacerbate tensions or undermine the viability of a two-state solution,” Wood tells the council. “The US firmly supports the preservation of the historical status quo with respect to the holy sites in Jerusalem, especially on the Haram al Sharif Temple Mount.”

He says US President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken both firmly support the status quo and that the US appreciates Jordan’s role overseeing the holy site.

“In this spirit, we oppose any and all unilateral actions that depart from the historical status quo that are unacceptable,” Wood says.

“We note that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s platform calls for the preservation” of the status quo, he says. “We expect the government of Israel to follow through on that commitment.”

He says the US is also concerned about ongoing violence in the West Bank and calls on both sides to deescalate.

At the start of the emergency session, UAE representative to the UN Mohamed Abushahab says his country “strongly condemns the storming of Al Aqsa Mosque courtyard by an Israeli minister.”

Abushahab says the visit shows a “lack of commitment to the existing historical and legal status of the holy sites in Jerusalem and further destabilizes the fragile situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.”

“The events of the past year and the long history of this conflict reveal that the cost of unilateral measures is very high as the primary cause of the levels of violence and instability,” he says. “We in the Security Council must adopt a unified position against any actions that could inflame tensions.”

Erdan: UN giving credence to Palestinian ‘lies’ by debating Ben Gvir’s Temple Mount visit

NEW YORK — Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, says the world body is giving “legitimacy” to Palestinian “lies” about Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, ahead of an emergency Security Council session regarding National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s visit to the holy site earlier this week.

“There is absolutely no reason that this emergency session today should be held. None. To hold a Security Council Session on a non-event is truly absurd,” he says. “Israel’s minister of national security’s visit to the Temple Mount lasted 13 minutes in a peaceful and orderly fashion, without causing any destruction.”

“This visit was not an incursion into Al Aqsa or any of the other fabrications that the Palestinians branded his visit. Minister Ben Gvir’s visit was in line with the status quo and whoever claims otherwise is only inflaming the situation. Jews are allowed to visit the Temple Mount,” Erdan says.

“For years now, the Palestinians have orchestrated a poisonous campaign to obliterate any trace or connection between the Jewish people and the Temple Mount,” he says, highlighting a General Assembly resolution last week that referred to the holy site by only its Arabic name. “The Security Council is advancing this same narrative of lies by giving it legitimacy.”

He says the world body is engaging in hypocrisy by holding an emergency session on the visit, instead of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Iranian attacks on shipping, or Palestinian attacks on Israelis.

White House says US, Germany sending armored vehicles to Ukraine

US President Joe Biden and his German counterpart Chancellor Olaf Scholz have agreed to send powerfully armed infantry fighting vehicles to help Ukraine fight Russia, the White House says.

“The United States intends to supply Ukraine with Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, and Germany intends to provide Ukraine with Marder Infantry Fighting Vehicles. Both countries plan to train Ukrainian forces on the respective systems,” the White House says in a statement.

Several people, including children, wounded in shooting in Arab town of Zarzir

Multiple people have been wounded in a shooting in the Arab town of Zarzir, according to first responders.

Magen David Adom says that five people have been brought to the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa for treatment, including a 17-year-old in serious condition, two men in their 20s in moderate condition, as well as a 19-year-old and a 10-year-old in moderate condition.

Police did not immediately comment on the incident.

World’s oldest active journalist Walter Bingham turns 99 in Jerusalem

Walter Bingham, said to be the world’s oldest active journalist, celebrates his 99th birthday in Jerusalem.

“When I meet someone who’s 30, I feel 30,” he tells The Times of Israel from his apartment. “When I meet someone who’s 18, I feel 18. When I meet someone who’s 50, I feel 40.”

Growing up as Wolfgang Billig in Karlsruhe, Germany, Bingham witnessed the rise of the Nazi party as a teenager, before fleeing to England on the Kindertransport. His father died in the Warsaw Ghetto. His mother survived, eventually joining him in England.

Bingham would go on to become a journalist, a pilot, and an actor, appearing in two Harry Potter films.

He made Aliyah in 2004 at the age of 80, and began hosting two radio shows in addition to writing opinion columns. Bingham has become a fixture of the media scene in Israel, instantly recognizable by his signature blue cap.

Bingham has a message for young people: “Don’t be jack of all trades and a master of none. Stick to something, and go to the end.”

US and Turkey slap new sanctions on figures tied to Islamic State

The US says it has worked with Turkey to impose sanctions on four people and two firms that it says provided financial support to the Islamic State group.

The announcement signals counterterrorism cooperation between the two countries at a time of tensions over efforts to fight Islamic State.

The US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control says it is imposing sanctions on an Iraqi national living in Turkey, Abd Al Hamid Salim Ibrahim Ismail Brukan al-Khatuni, his sons and the Turkish money service firm where they all worked. They are accused of facilitating financial transfers to and from Iraq and Syria for the benefit of the Islamic State.

Another individual, Lu’ay Jasim Hammadi al-Juburi, an Islamic State financial administration official also living in Turkey, is accused of using the firm Sham Express, a company founded in 2020 by Brukan al-Khatuni, to transfer funds to IS.

The sanction’s actions freeze and block any potential transactions with US entities and prevent Americans from doing business with them. The State Department notes that Turkey is concurrently freezing the assets of those targeted by the US sanctions.

Biden says Putin only seeking Christmas ceasefire in Ukraine to ‘find some oxygen’

US President Joe Biden says Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s order for a two-day Orthodox Christmas ceasefire in Ukraine was simply an effort to find breathing room for his war effort.

“He was ready to bomb hospitals and nurseries and churches” on December 25 and on New Year’s Day, Biden says, adding: “I think he’s trying to find some oxygen.”

2 men arrested for hitting Western Wall worker who said women can’t enter men’s section

An employee of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation was physically attacked by two men who purportedly wanted to bring women with them into the men’s section of the wall, the foundation says.

Workers at the holy site explained to the men that they could not be accompanied by women in the men’s section, the foundation says in a statement.

The men allegedly responded by hitting the employee in the face, who sought treatment at a hospital in Jerusalem. The men were arrested by the police, the foundation says.

Zelensky adviser: Netanyahu could serve as ‘effective mediator’ between Kyiv, Moscow

A senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky suggested that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could serve as a negotiator between Moscow and Kyiv.

“I have no doubt that Mr. Netanyahu could be an effective mediator,” Mykhailo Podolyak says in an interview with the Israeli i24 TV network. “Since he understands precisely what modern wars are, and what is the essence of mediation under these conditions.”

But Podolyak says that Moscow does not truly want negotiations, but only Ukraine’s surrender.

Iran orders investigation into claims that inmates raped in jails

Iran’s judiciary says a senior official has ordered an inquiry into allegations denied by the authorities of rape and sexual assault of inmates in the Islamic Republic’s jails.

“Vice president of the judicial authority for international affairs and secretary of the High Council for Human Rights, Kazem Gharibabdi, has asked the country’s prosecutor general to carry out a thorough investigation into the allegations of sexual assault and rape of some inmates,” the judiciary’s Mizan Online news website reports.

“Given the very negative effect of these claims, please carefully study and address these accusations, whether raised inside the country or outside of it,” Gharibabdi writes in a letter to prosecutor general Mohammad Jafar Montazeri quoted by Mizan.

“Before anything else, proof must be sought from the people expressing these claims,” he says, calling on Montazeri to bring to justice “the perpetrators or those making such allegations, depending on the result of the investigation.”

Man shot at Rishon Lezion gas station dies of his wounds

A man who was shot in broad daylight at a gas station in Rishon Lezion has died of his wounds, says the Shamir Medical Center.

The man, identified as a prominent contractor in the city, got out of a taxi at the gas station and briefly spoke with a man, who then shot him and fled the scene.

Police are investigating the murder and searching for the suspect, who they believe had some prior connection to the victim.

US wraps up temporary deployment of six F-15 fighter jets to Israeli airbase

The United States Air Force wraps up a five-day-long deployment of six fighter jets to an Israeli Air Force base in southern Israel.

According to the IAF, during the deployment at the Nevatim Airbase, the six F-15s held joint drills with Israel’s fleet of F-35 stealth fighters and a squadron of intelligence-gathering Gulfstream G550 planes.

The deployment by the US Air Forces Central Command (AFCENT) is part of a doctrine called “agile combat employment,” under which aircraft are dispersed at forward operating positions in allied countries around the globe, rather than at the US’s traditional main overseas bases.

The Israeli military says the deployment is a “significant milestone in establishing joint operational activities in the region and in deepening the cooperation between the Israeli and American air forces.”

Putin orders ceasefire in Ukraine during Orthodox Christmas

Russian President Vladimir Putin orders a temporary ceasefire in Ukraine on the eve of Orthodox Christmas following a request from Russia’s spiritual leader Patriarch Kirill, according to the Kremlin.

“Taking into account the appeal of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, I instruct the defense minister of the Russian Federation to introduce from 12:00 (0900 GMT) on January 6, 2023 until 24:00 (2100 GMT) on January 7, 2023 a ceasefire along the entire line of contact between the sides in Ukraine,” the Kremlin says in a statement.

Incoming IDF chief appoints new military spokesman

Incoming military chief Herzi Halevi appoints Daniel Hagari to be the Israel Defense Forces’ next spokesman.

Hagari, a senior Navy officer, will replace Ran Kochav in the coming months.

His appointment is approved by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

Halevi will enter the role of IDF chief of staff on January 17, replacing outgoing IDF chief Aviv Kohavi.

After wave of criticism, FM Cohen meets envoys from UAE, US, France and others

After a bumpy week for Israel diplomatically, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen meets with the ambassadors of many of Israel’s most important partners at the home of UAE Ambassador to Israel Mohamed Al Khaja.

Joining them were the ambassadors from the US, France, UK, Germany, India and Morocco to discuss ways to expand the Abraham Accords and multilateral cooperation.

Israel came under criticism this week from many of these countries in the wake of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s controversial visit to the Temple Mount.

New education minister scraps matriculation reforms put in place by last government

New Education Minister Yoav Kisch announces that he will scuttle matriculation reforms championed by the previous minister, Yifat Shasha-Biton, and will instead draw up a new framework by March.

The reforms were slated to see the written exams for history, literature, civics and biblical studies canceled and replaced by class projects and multidisciplinary work graded internally by each school, alongside an external assessment. Testing for math, English, language and science subjects was slated to continue as in the past, with externally set written tests.

In a statement, Kisch vows to give biblical studies and history “back their status and their rightful place.”

New FM Cohen speaks with Indian counterpart, who invites him to visit

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen speaks with his Indian counterpart, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, for the first time since taking office.

According to the Foreign Ministry, Cohen and Jaishankar discuss the importance of Israeli-Indian relations, including free trade deals and joint projects in the fields of innovation, security, food and water.

Jaishankar invites Cohen to visit India in the near future, according to Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

Jaishankar tweets about his call with Cohen that he “looks forward to partnering him in taking our cooperation forward. Value his many insights, including on economy and security.”

Arab FMs urge UN Security Council to ‘work immediately’ against Temple Mount ‘provocations’

Foreign ministers from Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian Authority, Qatar, Egypt and Morocco convene virtually and issue a joint statement condemning the recent Temple Mount visit of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir.

In the statement, the ministers “condemn in the strongest terms” Ben Gvir’s visit, which they call an “unacceptable violation” and a “dangerous escalation.”

They call on the UN Security Council, which is slated to meet today on the issue, to “work immediately” to stop such activity.

The ministers also call on Israel not to take any “provocative steps” in Jerusalem that would “threaten security and stability in the region.”

Lebanon charges 7 people over deadly attack on UNIFIL peacekeeping force

Lebanon has charged seven people for participating in an attack against United Nations peacekeepers that killed one Irish soldier in mid-December, a judicial official tells AFP.

Private Sean Rooney, 23, was killed and three others were injured on December 14 when their UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) vehicle was attacked near the village of Al-Aqbiya in the south of the Mediterranean country, a stronghold of the powerful Iran-backed Shiite group Hezbollah.

Only one of the seven charged is in custody, Mohammad Ayyad, who was handed over to the army by Hezbollah last month.

Ayyad has been charged “with killing the Irish soldier and attempting to kill his three comrades by shooting them with a machine gun,” the official says, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The judge also charged six fugitives “for uttering threats with an illegal weapon, destroying the UNIFIL vehicle and intimidating its passengers,” the official adds.

High Court adjourns at close of six-hour hearing over Deri appointment

The High Court of Justice adjourns following a six-hour hearing in the petitions against the appointment of Shas chair Aryeh Deri as health and interior minister.

It is not clear when the expanded panel of 11 justices will issue a ruling in the case, and it is unlikely to come today.

It is possible that the justices will issue a ruling first and only later publish their full reasoning for the decision.

Netanyahu convenes first security cabinet meeting of new government

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convenes the first meeting of the security cabinet of his new government.

The 11-member body is a high-level subset of government ministers who oversee and approve sensitive security and military matters.

Netanyahu is joined in the security cabinet by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Justice Minister Yariv Levin, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, Interior and Health Minister Aryeh Deri, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, Transportation Minister Miri Regev, Energy Minister Israel Katz, and Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Avi Dichter.

The last government’s security cabinet included three women; the current panel has just one.

Likud planning to expand Norwegian Law and increase number of politicians in office

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition is preparing to advance an expanded version of the so-called Norwegian Law to let up to 10 downlist candidates replace ministers in their Knesset seats.

Inspired by a similar provision in Norway, the current Norwegian Law allows a number of cabinet members from each party within the government resign their Knesset seats while retaining their ministerial posts, and be replaced by the next candidates on their faction’s election rosters.

Last expanded in 2020, the current law states that factions with between four and six MKs can replace up to three ministers, factions with seven to nine can swap out up to four ministers, and factions with at least 10 lawmakers can switch out up to five ministers.

Likud’s plan would keep the limits for smaller factions, but eliminate the five seat cap for factions with more than 18 MKs. Instead, larger parties will be able to replace up to a third of their slate, allowing the 32-seat Likud to be able to bring in 10 new MKs.

Iranian sentenced to death for leading crowd during Mahsa Amini protests

Iran’s judiciary announces that it has sentenced a man to death for his role in the protests sparked by the death in custody of Kurdish-Iranian woman Mahsa Amini.

Arshia Takdastan is alleged to have led a “crowd in the main square of the city of Nowshahr and committed significant criminal acts,” the judiciary’s Mizan Online website reports.

He was charged with “corruption on earth” and “moharebeh,” or “enmity against God,” both capital offenses in the Islamic Republic, over the protest in the country’s north.

Since the start of the protests, two people have been executed and another 12 have been sentenced to death over the unrest, which Tehran calls “riots,” according to Iranian justice officials.

Shas MK disrupts High Court hearing on Deri’s appointment to denounce ‘lies’

Shas MK Moshe Arbel begins shouting in the middle of the High Court hearing over the legality of Shas chief Aryeh Deri’s appointment as health and interior minister.

Arbel interrupts the comments of a petitioner in the case, shouting that “I oppose the lies that are being said here over and over again.”

Supreme Court President Esther Hayut reprimands Arbel for his interruption, saying: “We speak only with permission here.”

Gantz calls on Netanyahu to include opposition parties in shaping judicial reform

National Unity party leader MK Benny Gantz calls on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to build a team including coalition and opposition members of Knesset to work on the government’s planned judicial reform.

“We are in a real emergency, and therefore I call on Prime Minister Netanyahu to make a decision: negotiation or confrontation,” Gantz says during a speech at Reichman University the day after Justice Minister Yariv Levin laid out a sweeping plan to change the face of the judiciary.

Gantz urges Netanyahu “to establish a cross-party and cross-political camp team, which will discuss the enactment of a Basic Law in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence, which will express the voices of all the people and citizens of Israel.”

“An issue so fundamental to our future and existence decades ahead deserves to come with a broad consensus,” he says. “This will legitimize the changes,” allowing them to be “built on a solid foundation.”

Putin says ready for Ukraine talks if Kyiv accepts ‘new territorial realities’

President Vladimir Putin tells Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he is open to dialogue with Ukraine if Kyiv accepts territories occupied by Moscow as Russian, the Kremlin says.

“Putin again confirmed Russia’s openness to serious dialogue on the condition of Kyiv authorities fulfilling the well-known and repeatedly voiced requirements of taking into account the new territorial realities,” the Kremlin says in a statement.

3 cops indicted for tampering with investigation of immigrant teen’s murder

Three police officers are indicted in the Nazareth Magistrate’s Court for tampering with the murder investigation of immigrant teenager Yoel Lhanghal in Kiryat Shmona in October.

Lhangal, 18, was stabbed to death at a birthday party in the city amid a brawl. Liad Edri, 21, has been charged with killing Lhangal — a recent immigrant from India —  after allegedly being told that “Thai people were beating up children.”

According to the Police Internal Investigation Department, the three cops — Haim Gabai, Shai Cohen and Yitzhak Ben-Shaya — acted inappropriately during the course of the murder investigation.

Gabai, who personally knew Edri, gave advice to the suspected killer and his family and provided them with inside information in the case, according to the indictment. Gabai also allegedly failed to inform police about Edri’s involvement and the likelihood that he was the main suspect.

Cohen and Ben-Shaya are accused of taking a bloodstained helmet from the scene of the crime and placing it in their police car, then returning it to the scene and attempting to hide the fact that it was moved, and not reporting such activity to police.

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