The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they happened.
Some 3,700 Iranians arrested during protests, unrest, lawmaker says
TEHRAN, Iran — An Iranian reformist lawmaker says some 3,700 people were arrested in the days of protests and unrest that roiled Iran over the past two weeks, offering a far higher number than authorities previously released.
The protests, which vented anger at high unemployment and official corruption, were the largest seen in Iran since the disputed 2009 presidential election, and some demonstrators called for the overthrow of the government. At least 21 people have been killed in the unrest surrounding the protests.
The official news website of the Iranian parliament, icana.ir, quotes Mahmoud Sadeghi of Tehran as saying that different security and intelligence forces detained the protesters, making it difficult to know the exact number of detainees. He did not elaborate, nor did he say where he got the figure.
Previously, authorities have said “hundreds” were arrested in Tehran alone, not offering a total figure for arrests as the demonstrations spread into the Iranian countryside, including small towns.
Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli has said about 42,000 people at most took part in the anti-government protests. Sadeghi’s figure of arrested offered Tuesday would mean nearly nine percent of those who demonstrated were arrested.
Jerusalem police prevent gathering of Palestinian terror group
Jerusalem Police chief Yoram Halevy issues an order preventing a planned gathering in East Jerusalem of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a Palestinian terror group.
The event was slated to take place Tuesday, but officers arrive at the scene and prevent it from taking place, according to Hebrew media reports.
Three organizers are taken for questioning.
The DFLP has been relatively inactive in recent years, but was once a prominent terror group. It carried out the infamous Ma’alot massacre in 1974 in which 25 people, most of them Israeli schoolchildren, were murdered.
Israel has stopped terrorists from crashing planes into Europe’s cities — PM
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday suggests that Israel has prevented terrorists from hijacking airplanes and crashing them into European cities.
“We have, through our intelligence services, provided information that has stopped several dozen major terrorist attacks, many of them in European countries,” he tells foreign diplomats at a NATO gathering in Jerusalem.
“Some of these could have been massive attacks, of the worst kind that have ever been experienced on the soil of Europe — and even worse, because they involved civil aviation. Israel has prevented that, and thereby helped save many European lives.”
He does not provide more details about the nature of the attacks.
— Raphael Ahren
Deri considers renaming ultra-Orthodox city in honor of late Rabbi Shteinman
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri is said to be considering changing the name of the ultra-Orthodox city of Elad to Ayelet Hashahar in honor of the late Rabbi Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman, a top Haredi rabbi in Israel until his death last month at the age of 104.
Rabbis affiliated with the Degel Hatorah political party, part of the United Torah Judaism faction in the Knesset, spoke with Deri about the possibility in recent days, according the ultra-Orthodox news website Kikar Hashabbat.
Ayelet Hashahar is Shteinman’s pen name in his extensive published commentaries on the Bible and Talmud.
It is not clear if the name change will be possible given that Ayelet Hashahar is already the name of a kibbutz in the Upper Galilee.
Egypt says its forces kill 8 suspected jihadists in Sinai
CAIRO — Egypt says its security forces have killed eight suspected jihadists in a shootout in the northern Sinai Peninsula.
The Interior Ministry says the firefight broke out when the forces raided a suspected hideout in el-Arish city. It says the jihadists were planning attacks targeting security forces, and were in possession of explosives, rifles and ammunition.
Egypt has been battling Islamist insurgents in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula for years, but the insurgency became far more deadly after the 2013 military ouster of Mohammed Morsi.
An Islamic State affiliate based in the Sinai has carried out a number of high-profile attacks in recent years, mainly targeting security forces and Egypt’s Christian minority.
Iran’s Khamenei hails rallies against US, Zionist ‘plot’
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei praises a “massive movement of the people against the plots of the enemies,” accusing the United States and Israel of inciting anti-government demonstrations.
Pro-government rallies have been held across the country since late December, according to Iranian state media, following several days of opposition protests which sparked violence that left 21 dead.
Such a “popular mobilization against the enemy’s plots targeting the regime… doesn’t exist anywhere (else) in the world,” Khamenei says in a speech broadcast by Iranian media.
He accuses the United States and “the Zionists” of spending months preparing demonstrations in small towns in the hope that they would spread to the capital.
“This will not go unanswered,” he says.
The anti-government demonstrations were the biggest such movement in the tightly controlled country since protests over a disputed election in 2009.
Kurdish soccer player in ‘safe place’ after Germany attack
A German-Turkish soccer player whose car was shot at on a German highway is in a “safe place” and receiving police protection after the apparent assassination attempt, his lawyer says.
Deniz Naki, who plays in Turkey and is known for his pro-Kurdish views, was unharmed in the shooting late Sunday which he believes was linked to his criticism of the Turkish government.
The 28-year-old tells German media his SUV came under fire from a black van on the A4 motorway near the western town of Dueren, leaving two bullets lodged in his car.
“I was afraid for my life,” says German-born Naki, who plays for the third-tier club Amedspor in the majority-Kurdish city of Diyarbakir. “I am a walking target in Turkey because of my pro-Kurdish stance,” he is quoted as saying.
German prosecutors have opened an investigation into attempted murder, and police officers have since taken Naki to “a hidden location” as a precaution, his lawyer Soran Haldi Mizrak tells the DPA news agency.
Greece to limit sharia law after European Court challenge
ATHENS, Greece — Lawmakers in Greece are set to limit the powers of Islamic courts operating in a border region that is home to a 100,000-strong Muslim minority.
Backed by parliament’s largest political parties, the draft law is set to be voted on later Tuesday. The proposal aims to scrap rules dating back more than 90 years ago and which refer many civil cases involving members of the Muslim community to Sharia law courts. The new legislation will give Greek courts priority in all cases.
The changes — considered long overdue by many Greek legal experts — follow a complaint to the Council of Europe’s Court of Human Rights over an inheritance dispute by a Muslim woman who lives in the northeastern Greek city of Komotini.
Palestinian teen said caught carrying knife, firebomb in West Bank
Israeli security forces arrest a Palestinian teenage girl who is found in possession of a utility knife and a bottle of gasoline at a bus stop at the Shilo Junction in the central West Bank, the army says.
An Israeli civilian spotted the teenager behaving strangely, drew his pistol and called for her to halt. The girl then took out and threw away the knife that she had in her possession, an army spokesperson says.
Soldiers arrived on the scene a short while later and placed her under arrest. During a search of her bag, they found the gasoline, the army says.
“She is now being questioned,” the spokesperson says.
There are no injuries reported.
— Judah Ari Gross
Canadian Holocaust denier arrested in Germany
A Holocaust denier from Canada has been arrested in Germany and is under investigation for crimes related to incitement of hate, a spokesperson for the Bavarian State Public Prosecutor in Munich confirms to JTA.
News of the arrest of Monika Schaefer first broke in the Canada-based online news agency Fitzhugh. Schaefer is known for posting a YouTube video in 2016 in which she called the Holocaust the most “persistent lie in all of history.”
Though prohibited by German law from revealing the name of a suspect under investigation, spokesperson Andrea Mayer confirms that a woman fitting her description had been recognized in the public audience at a trial in Munich of another person charged with incitement to hate, Sylvia Stolz, a former lawyer in Germany who already has been convicted of Holocaust denial. Stolz represented Holocaust-denier Ernst Zundel, who died in 2017.
Transportation minister says Jerusalem-Tel Aviv fast train to launch by Passover
Transportation Minister Israel Katz says the much-anticipated fast train between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem is slated to open around the start of the Passover holiday, which begins on the evening of March 30.
For its first three months, travel on the route will be free of charge, Hadashot TV reports.
Under construction since 2001 and with a price tag in excess of 7 billion shekels, the line is expected to enable travel between Israel’s capital and its commercial hub in as little as 28 minutes.
Sweden warns against cutting US aid to Palestinians
Sweden, a major donor country that has recognized Palestine as a state, warns Tuesday that any US decision to withdraw funds to the UN agency for Palestinians would be destabilizing for the Middle East.
Sweden’s UN Ambassador Olof Skoog says he has raised his concerns with US Ambassador Nikki Haley following reports that the US administration had withheld $125 million in funds due on January 1 for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinians.
“My concern is that as we talk about regional stability, withdrawing funding for UNRWA would be very negative, both in terms of humanitarian needs of over five million people but also of course it would be destabilizing for the region,” Skoog tells reporters at UN headquarters.
The Swedish ambassador says he did not rule out raising the issue at the Security Council, which is scheduled to hold its regular meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on January 25.
US President Donald Trump earlier this month threatened to cut US aid to the Palestinians, saying on Twitter that Washington gets “no appreciation or respect” from the Palestinians.
UN urges Israel to scrap African migrant relocation plan
GENEVA, Switzerland — The United Nations calls on Israel to scrap a new program to force thousands of African migrants out of the country, condemning it as incoherent and unsafe.
The program targets an estimated 38,000 people, mainly from Eritrea and Sudan. Israel has offered them $3,500 and a plane ticket if they leave by March, warning they may face arrest after the deadline.
The plan was widely criticized when first unveiled last year, but the UN’s refugee agency is sounding a fresh alarm after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement last week that the program had begun.
Israel has not clearly said where the migrants will go, but tacitly recognizes it is too dangerous to return the Sudanese and Eritreans home. As a result, according to activists in Israel, it has signed deals with Rwanda and Uganda, which agree to accept departing migrants on condition they consent to the arrangement.
UNHCR said it had spoken to 80 people who were flown with the $3,500 to Rwanda before heading north, travelling to Rome through conflict zones in South Sudan, Sudan and Libya.
“Along the way they suffered abuse, torture and extortion before risking their lives once again by crossing the Mediterranean to Italy,” UNHCR says in a statement, explaining that its staff interviewed the migrants in Rome.
Bombardment kills 15 civilians in Syria rebel enclave
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Air strikes and artillery fire killed at least 15 civilians on Tuesday in a besieged rebel enclave near Damascus targeted by near-daily regime bombardment, a war monitor says.
Three children were among the dead in Eastern Ghouta, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which says the air raids were carried out by regime and Russian warplanes.
The deadliest strikes hit the Hammuriyeh district where eight civilians were killed, the Britain-based monitor says.
“There are 85 wounded in total, some in critical condition, and the death toll could increase,” says Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
Defense minister promises to build 1,300 new settlement homes
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s office says the minister will ask Israel’s top construction planning body in the West Bank to approve tomorrow 1,285 new housing units for immediate construction and some 2,500 housing units to enter the planning stages in over 20 Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
“We committed to several waves of construction permits in Judea and Samaria this year, and we’re fulfilling our promise,” Liberman says in a statement.
Initial report: Israeli man said shot near Nablus from passing car
According to an initial report, an Israeli man is shot near the Gilad Farm Junction near Nablus in the northern West Bank.
The Israeli man himself called police to report having been shot from a passing Palestinian car. He is believed to be seriously hurt.
IDF forces are rushing to the scene. There is no immediate confirmation of the report from authorities.
IDF confirms Gilad Farm shooting, says search underway for a suspect
The IDF issues an update on the Gilad Farm shooting which contains no new information but confirms previous reports.
The update reads: “A suspect opened fire at an Israeli civilian in his vehicle near Khavat Gil’ad [Gilad Farm]…. The civilian was severely injured and was taken to the hospital. IDF troops are searching the area for the suspect.”
— Judah Ari Gross
Family of wounded Israeli asks for prayers for his recovery
The family of the Israeli man critically wounded in the terror attack near the Gilad Farm outpost asks the public to pray for his recovery.
His name is Raziel ben Ilana, the family tells the religious-Zionist website Srugim, a formulation of the man’s first name and his mother’s first name that is used in traditional Jewish prayers for healing.
His full name has not yet been released by authorities.
MDA says Gilad Farm victim is a first responder with the rescue service
The Magen David Adom rescue service says the Israeli victim of the shooting near the Gilad Farm outpost is a MDA first responder.
“He was driving alone in his car,” Eli Bin tells Army Radio. “He notified MDA on his radio and rescuers rushed out to the field to take care of him.”
Wife of Gilad Farm victim ‘shocked and horrified at how easily they gun us down’
The wife of the critically wounded Israeli in the Gilad Farm shooting tells the Ynet news site that her husband “called me, and said, ‘I’ve been shot, call an ambulance.’ I’m still shocked and horrified at how easily they gun us down. We’re on our way to the hospital, we don’t know his condition. I want to ask everyone to pray for him.”