The Times of Israel liveblogged Saturday’s events as they happened.
An off-duty Israeli soldier is suspected of involvement in the settler attack on the West Bank Palestinian village of Umm Safa earlier today.
He was detained by police and handed over to the Shin Bet security agency for further questioning, the Israel Defense Forces says.
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, head of the coalition’s far-right Religious Zionism party, issues a statement on the rising settler attacks in the West Bank after security chiefs denounced the violence as “nationalist terrorism.”
“The IDF and security forces must act with much greater firmness against terror and rioting by Arabs,” he writes on Twitter. “We can’t accept a reality in which settlers feel like sitting ducks on the roads and around settlements every day and count their dead.”
“But even in this complex situation taking the law into one’s own hands is bad, damaging and may lead to a loss of control and dangerous anarchy,” he adds, calling on “everyone to refrain from acts that harm settlement.”
Smotrich denounces “The attempt to create an equivalency between murderous Arab terror to [Israeli] civilian counter-actions, however serious they may be, is morally wrong and dangerous on a practical level.”
He also rails at the controversial use of administrative detention for far-right Jewish suspects and claims security forces are carrying out “collective punishment” in Ateret following the attack earlier today on the nearby Palestinian village of Umm Safa, referring to reports of checks at the settlement entrance.
MOSCOW — The Kremlin says that Wagner group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin will leave for Belarus and a criminal case against him will be dropped.
Members of the Wagner paramilitary force who joined what Moscow called an “armed rebellion” will not be prosecuted, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov adds. “We have always respected their heroic deeds at the front.”
MOSCOW — Rebel mercenary Wagner group begins pulling back fighters and equipment from the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, after its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin halted the fighters’ march on Moscow.
An AFP reporter at the scene sees a tank, several cargo trucks and several minivans carrying fighters leave the military headquarters the group had occupied earlier.
— max seddon (@maxseddon) June 24, 2023
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announces work on a contentious wind farm project in the Golan Heights will be halted during the Eid al-Adha festival this week, after speaking with Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Muafak Tarif.
The Prime Minister’s Office says Netanyahu ordered the work stoppage at the recommendation of Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar and Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, after major clashes broke out between Druze and security forces earlier this week.
The statement notes that far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir “expresses his opinion that the work also needs to continue tomorrow.”
It also says Netanyahu called to draw up plans to increase housing in Druze communities.
Some anti-overhaul protesters run onto Tel Aviv’s Ayalon Highway, blocking traffic in both directions.
אחרי ההפגנה: נתיבי איילון נחסמו לתנועה pic.twitter.com/XR4lgID6YA
— Anna Pines || אנה פינס (@AnnaPines_) June 24, 2023
MOSCOW — Authorities in the southern Russian region of Lipetsk begin lifting restrictions after the rebel mercenary group Wagner, which had entered the province earlier, announced it would fall back.
“We are beginning to lift restrictions introduced today,” Governor Igor Artamonov says on Telegram.
MOSCOW — Minsk says that Russian President Vladimir Putin thanked Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko after the chief of Wagner announced he was turning around his forces.
“The President of Belarus informed the President of Russia in detail about the results of negotiations with the leadership of PMC Wagner,” Lukashenko’s press service says in a statement, adding Putin “thanked his Belarusian colleague.”
The chief of the rebel Wagner mercenary force threatened to march on Moscow today before announcing a stunning pull-back, saying he did not want to spill blood.
Some 95,000 demonstrators are taking part in the Tel Aviv rally against the government’s far-reaching plans to change the judiciary, Israeli company Crowd Solutions says in an estimate cited by Channel 13 news.
Thousands more are demonstrating elsewhere in Israel.
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen confirms consular staff will be boosted in Moscow and St. Petersburg, following the mutiny by the mercenary Wagner Group.
“We are ready for any scenario,” Cohen says in a statement after speaking with Israel’s ambassador to Russia.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant issues a statement condemning today’s attack by settlers on the Palestinian village of Umm Safa.
“This is not our way,” Gallant writes on Twitter.
The tweet comes after security chiefs issued a joint statement denouncing recent settler violence as “nationalist terrorism in the full sense of the term,” language not repeated by Gallant.
Gallant expresses support for IDF troops operating in the West Bank and calls for them “to act to maintain order and prevent acts of uncontrolled violence by residents of the area.”
The head of the Wagner force says he has ordered his mercenaries to halt their march on Moscow and retreat to their field camps in Ukraine to avoid shedding Russian blood.
The announcement from Yevgeny Prigozhin appears to defuse a growing crisis. Moscow had braced for the arrival of the private army led by the rebellious commander. And Russian President Vladimir Putin had vowed he would face harsh consequences.
Prigozhin says that while his men are just 200 kilometers (120 miles) from Moscow, he decided to turn them back to avoid “shedding Russian blood.”
He doesn’t say whether the Kremlin has responded to his demand to oust Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. There is no immediate comment from the Kremlin.
The announcement follows a statement from the office of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko saying that he had negotiated a deal with Prigozhin after previously discussing the issue with Putin.
Prigozhin has accepted Lukashenko’s offer to halt the Wagner group’s advance and further steps to de-escalate the tensions, Lukashenko’s office said, adding that the proposed settlement contains security guarantees for Wagner troops. It didn’t elaborate.
Heads of IDF, Shin Bet and police condemn settler attacks: ‘Nationalist terror in full sense of term’
Israel Defense Forces chief Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, Shin Bet head Ronen Bar, and Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai in a joint statement say that the ongoing settler attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank are “nationalist terrorism in the full sense of the term.”
“In recent days, violent attacks by Israeli citizens against innocent Palestinians have been carried out in the Judea and Samaria area,” the highly unusual statement reads, referring to the West Bank by its biblical name.
“These attacks are against every moral and Jewish value and are also nationalist terrorism in the full sense of the term, and we are obliged to fight them,” the three senior officials say.
“The security forces are working against these rioters, risking the lives of IDF soldiers, Israel Police officers, and Shin Bet officers. This violence increases Palestinian terror, harms the State of Israel, and the international legitimacy of the security forces to fight Palestinian terror, and diverts the security forces from their main mission against Palestinian terror,” the statement continues.
“The IDF, the Shin Bet and Israel Police are committed to continuing to act with determination and with all the means at our disposal to maintain security and the law in Judea and Samaria. The IDF will divert and increase forces to prevent such incidents in Judea and Samaria, and the Shin Bet will expand arrests, including administrative detentions against the rioters who act in a violent and extreme manner inside the Palestinian villages,” they say.
“We also call on the leaders in the settlements, educators and public leaders, to publicly denounce these acts of violence, and to join the fight against them,” the statement adds.
In the wake of a deadly terror attack in the West Bank, recent days have seen hundreds of settlers rampage inside Palestinian towns and villages, setting fire to homes, cars, and even opening fire in some cases.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has wrapped up a preliminary assessment with top security officials before meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the armed mutiny in Russia.
A statement from Gallant’s office says the meeting included military chief Herzi Halevi, Mossad head David Barnea and the ministry’s director-general Eyal Zamir.
A former head of IDF military intelligence warns of the potential for Russian nuclear weapons to fall into rogue and dangerous hands given the chaos in Russia.
When the Soviet Union fell apart, the US and the new Russian government worked together to prevent nuclear missiles from falling into rogue hands, Amos Yadlin tells Channel 12. “Russia has 6,000 nuclear warheads,” he notes, and the West has no capacity to deal with the potential danger of “nuclear weapons proliferation” if Russia collapses, he says.
He warns that Russian nuclear scientists could help Iran with its nuclear drive, crossing the only red line that Putin maintained as he warmed relations with Tehran and supplied the ayatollahs with combat aircraft and air defense systems. “There’s a great fear” of that changing, says Yadlin.
Moscow under Putin “had one line,” he says. It did not help Iran with its “nuclear weapons development program.”
Ultimately, stresses Yadlin, it wouldn’t be smart to be “too happy if Putin falls. Whoever replaces him might not be more moderate.”
Video footage shows a group of Israeli settlers, some of them masked, opening fire during an attack on the West Bank village of Umm Safa earlier.
Palestinian media reported that the shots were directed at a Palestinian television crew in the village.
Israeli terrorist settlers shooting on Palestinians who came to defend themselves during the pogrom launched by the settlers earlier today.
— Younis | يونس (@ytirawi) June 24, 2023
The settlers also set fire to a number of homes and cars, before Israeli forces dispersed them. One suspect was detained by the army and handed over to police.
The Foreign Ministry publishes a notice advising Israelis “to weigh the necessity” of traveling to Russia, after the mercenary Wagner Group launched an armed rebellion.
The statement calls on Israelis in Russia “to weigh the essentially” of remaining in the country and to avoid “flashpoints.”
WASHINGTON — US President Joe Biden discusses the unfolding crisis in Russia with the leaders of France, Germany and the United Kingdom, affirming the allies’ staunch support for Ukraine.
According to a statement from the White House, Biden spoke by telephone with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak about “the situation in Russia.”
In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin is facing the biggest threat to his rule yet with rebel mercenaries advancing toward the Russian capital after seizing a key military base.
The leaders “affirmed their unwavering support for Ukraine,” the White House statement adds.
A White House spokesman also says Biden and US Vice President Kamala Harris were briefed by their national security team this morning on the Russian crisis and will continue to be briefed throughout the day.
Due to the mutiny in Russia, Gen. Mark Milley canceled his planned visit to Israel tomorrow, according to Hebrew media reports.
Milley, the head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, was scheduled to meet with top security officials for talks expected to focus on Iran.
Israelis began gathering around the country for the 25th week of protests against the government’s plans to overhaul the judicial system.
The main demonstration will be centered around Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street, while smaller rallies are being held in other cities and locations.
PARIS — France warns its citizens against all travel to and within Russia after the head of the Wagner mercenary group launched a rebellion against the military and threatened to march on Moscow.
“We formally advise against any travel in Russia given the very high volatility of the military and security situation, as well as decisions to impose regimes of anti-terrorist operations in Moscow and in certain regions,” the foreign ministry says in a statement.
The head of the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs says he’ll convene a meeting next week on “the latest events” in Russia, after the head of the mercenary Wagner Group launched an armed rebellion.
MK Oded Forer, a member of the opposition Yisrael Beytenu party, says the meeting will address “the government’s preparedness for the crisis and its impact on the Jewish community and immigration to Israel.”
“The government must chart a new course concerning immigration from Russia and not miss this opportunity for a large wave of immigration,” Forer writes on Twitter. “We’re witnessing a deterioration of the situation that requires the government to quickly act.”
MOSCOW — Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin warns the situation in the capital is “difficult,” as forces of the Wagner mercenary group moves toward Moscow to oust Russia’s military leadership.
“The situation is difficult. I ask you to refrain from traveling around the city as much as possible,” Sobyanin says in a statement, warning of possible road closures and announcing Monday was a “non-working” day.
The Foreign Ministry is planning to send additional consul officials to Moscow and St. Petersburg in the coming days due to an expected rise in requests for travel documents, according to Hebrew media outlets.
Citing Foreign Ministry estimates, the reports say some 70,000 Israelis are believed to be in Russia, along with some 500,000 Jews and those eligible to immigrate to Israel.
The reports also say officials from the Foreign Ministry, Defense Ministry, National Security Council and Shin Bet discussed the option of weighing a travel warning for Russia during a meeting today.
MOSCOW — Russia warns the West against taking advantage of an armed insurrection carried out by the Wagner mercenary group in Russia to achieve what Moscow says are its “anti-Russian” goals.
“We warn the Western countries against any hint of possible use of the domestic Russian situation to achieve their Russophobic goals,” the foreign ministry says in a statement.
Security in a number of Russian regions is tightened as authorities seek to thwart an armed rebellion spearheaded by mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin.
There is tighter security particularly in areas between the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, where Prigozhin’s Wagner group appears to control military headquarters, and Moscow.
The governor of the Lipetsk region asked residents to stay at home and refrain from traveling. Governor Igor Artamonov said on Telegram that Wagner had entered the province but “the situation is under control.”
In the neighboring Tambov region, mass events are canceled today.
Those events include high school graduation parties. Russia’s Education Ministry says such parties are being postponed until July 1 in Moscow, the region around the capital and “a number of other regions where additional anti-terrorist measures have been introduced.”
In the capital, traffic on the Moscow River is suspended. Police officers in bulletproof vests and with machine guns are seen near the entrance of the major highway that links Moscow with Voronezh and Rostov–on-Don.
ISTANBUL — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey is ready to help seek a “peaceful resolution” to an armed rebellion in Russia, in a phone call with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, his office says.
Erdogan “underlined the importance of acting with common sense,” the presidency says in a statement. “President Erdogan said that we, as Turkey, are ready to do our part for the peaceful resolution of events in Russia as soon as possible.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will hold a meeting later this evening on the events in Russia, according to his office.
The meeting, which will be held after Shabbat, will include diplomatic and security officials.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid says violence by West Bank settlers “crosses all lines,” after a Palestinian village was attacked today in the latest such rampage.
“Torching homes and cars of innocents is inhumane and definitely not Jewish. Prime Minister Netanyahu needs to condemn this disgrace and deal with it severely. This is a moral disgrace and security threat,” Lapid writes on Twitter.
He also calls on settler leaders to denounce “this extremist and violence group,” which he charges is “receiving backing” from far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and accuses of “damaging and disgracing the vast majority of settlers.”
The IDF’s international media spokesman denounces the settler rampage in the Palestinian town of Umm al-Safa.
“Shameful acts on the Sabbath,” Lt. Col. Richard Hecht writes on Twitter in response to Germany’s ambassador. “This is not who we are.
These are acts of terror performed by criminals. We are doing what we can.”
Hecht notes a suspect was arrested during the attack.
Shameful acts on the Sabbath .
This is not who we are .
These are acts of terror performed by Criminals .
We are doing what we can .
One of the Perpetrators has been handed over to the Police . https://t.co/kjRogsff9e
— Lt. Col. Richard Hecht (@LtColRichard) June 24, 2023
MOSCOW — Russian mutineering Wagner mercenaries are “moving across” the Lipetsk region some 400 kilometers (250 miles) south of Moscow, the governor says, en route to Moscow after vowing to overthrow Russia’s military leadership.
“Hardware of the Wagner mercenary group is moving across the territory of the Lipetsk region,” Governor Igor Artamonov says on Telegram. “I remind you that residents are strongly recommended not to leave their houses or to make trips on any mode of transport.”
The Israel Defense Forces says troops detained one suspect during a settler attack on the Palestinian village of Umm Safa in the West Bank earlier.
The military says troops and Border Police officers were dispatched to the area following reports of dozens of settlers who entered the village and set fire to homes and cars, and hurled stones at Palestinians.
One soldier is lightly hurt from a stone hurled at him, the IDF says. It is unclear who threw the stone.
The IDF says the “friction” was dispersed by troops, and the detained suspect is handed over to police for further questioning.
“The IDF will continue to act with determination to stop any violence and destruction of property. The IDF condemns such incidents of nationalist crime,” the military says in a statement.
MOSCOW — Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan voiced full support for Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call to discuss the Wagner mercenary group’s armed insurrection in Russia, the Kremlin says.
“The president of Russia gave information about the situation in the country in connection with an attempted armed rebellion. The president of the republic of Turkey expressed full support for the steps taken by the Russian leadership,” the Kremlin says in a statement.
Germany’s envoy to Israel condemns today’s settler attack on the Palestinian village of Umm Safa.
“Shocked by another outbreak of settler violence,” tweets Ambassador Steffen Seibert. “Recent terror attacks cannot serve as an excuse for this. According to international law it is Israel’s responsibility to safeguard life & security of all inhabitants of the occupied territories.”
Shocked by another outbreak of settler violence in #UmmSafa. Recent terror attacks cannot serve as an excuse for this. According to international law it is Israel’s responsibility to safeguard life & security of all inhabitants of the occupied territories. @IDF @israelpolice
— Steffen Seibert (@GerAmbTLV) June 24, 2023
MOSCOW — Russia’s close ally Belarus says that the armed insurrection underway by the Wagner mercenary group is a “gift” to Western countries, warning the uprising could spell “disaster.”
“Any provocation, any internal conflict in military or political circles, in the information field or in civil society is a gift to the collective West,” the Belarusian foreign ministry says, citing a statement by Minsk’s Security Council.
Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven major industrial powers confer on the situation in Russia after mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin launched an armed rebellion.
The US State Department and German Foreign Ministry give few details of the discussion, which also includes the European Union’s foreign policy chief.
The State Department says Secretary of State Antony Blinken “reiterated that support by the United States for Ukraine will not change.” It says that the US “will stay in close coordination” with allies and partners as the situation develops.
The G7 comprises the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada and the UK.
Bahrain releases a statement denouncing several recent settler rampages in Palestinian towns in the West Bank.
The Gulf kingdom’s foreign ministry releases a statement “calling for calming the situation in the Palestinian territories, stopping violence and escalation, providing protection for civilians, and to ensure resuming the just and comprehensive peace process, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in accordance with the two-state solution, the principles of international law and the Arab Peace Initiative.”
The condemnation by Bahrain, which normalized relations with Israel as part of the 2020 Abraham Accords, comes as several dozen settlers rioted in the Palestinian village of Umm Safa and reportedly set fire to homes and cars.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine says that unrest in Russia spurred by an armed mutiny of the Russian Wagner group presents an opportunity for Kyiv, weeks after announcing a counteroffensive against Russian positions.
“What does this mean for us? It is a window of opportunity,” says Deputy Defense Minister Ganna Malyar, adding that Russia’s military and political leadership “fight with us and destroy themselves.”
Mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin claims that his troops entered the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don without a single shot and says that no one was killed during what he calls a “march of justice.”
Prigozhin says in a new audio statement that “we didn’t touch a single conscript, we didn’t kill a single person on our way.” He adds that the Russian air force targeted his troops, but they still managed to seize military headquarters in Rostov “without a single gunshot.”
His claims can’t be independently verified. The Russian authorities haven’t reported any casualties so far, either.
Shortly before Prigozhin released his statement, an explosion was heard near the military headquarters his Wagner group apparently controls in Rostov. It’s not immediately clear where the explosion occurred, how big it was and whether it caused any damage.
The Foreign Ministry and National Security Council will hold deliberations this evening on whether to issue a travel warning for Russia, according to Channel 12 news, following the mutiny there by the mercenary Wagner Group.
The report notes the sensitivity for Jerusalem of such a move, as it has sought to navigate between offering some support for Ukraine amid the ongoing Russian invasion while maintaining ties with Moscow. Israel’s need to carry out airstrikes on Iranian-linked targets in neighboring Syria, where there is Russian military presence, and the large Jewish community in Russia have been cited as the primary reasons for the Israeli stance on the fighting in Ukraine.
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