Ya’alon quits Likud party, says it has ‘changed its face’
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Ya’alon quits Likud party, says it has ‘changed its face’

Israel busts 2 Palestinians ‘plotting shooting’ for Hamas; sandstorm forces Tel Aviv-bound flight to return to Vienna; Erdogan levels ‘Nazism and fascism’ charge against Netherlands

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Illustrative: A Border Police officer arrests a Palestinian man in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber on September 18, 2015. (Israel Police)
Illustrative: A Border Police officer arrests a Palestinian man in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber on September 18, 2015. (Israel Police)

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

Erdogan levels ‘Nazism,’ ‘fascism’ accusation at Dutch after minister booted

Turkey’s Erdogan renews “Nazism and fascism” accusation against Dutch after his minister is ousted from The Netherlands.

— AP

Erdogan says Dutch will ‘pay price’ for expelling minister

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warns Netherlands will “pay a price” after his minister’s expulsion.

8-year-old stung by scorpion, moderately hurt

An 8-year-old child was moderately hurt after being stung by a yellow scorpion. He’s in an infirmary in the southern town of Arad.

Magen David Adom paramedics performed first aid on the boy and took him to Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center.

Police officer killed in jihadist attack in Tunisia

A police officer was killed and another wounded in a nighttime ambush on a checkpoint in southern Tunisia, the interior ministry said Sunday.

Two suspected jihadists were killed and another seriously wounded in the incident near Kebili, 480 kilometers (300 miles) south of Tunis, in what the ministry described as a “terrorist attack.”

The ambush by motorcycle-mounted gunmen occurred early Sunday on a police checkpoint, it said, adding that a fourth attacker fled the scene.

“Homemade explosives” were found on the motorbikes, the ministry added.

— AFP

Two East Jerusalem teens arrested for rape

Two East Jerusalem boys are suspected of raping a 13-year-old boy in their class, Ynet news reports. The two allegedly cornered the boy in an alley outside the school, bound his hands, and committed the act upon him before fleeing the scene.

In a separate incident, police arrested a 28-year-old Jerusalem man for allegedly sexually harassing a woman at a Purim party. A party-goer saw the man groping the woman, told him to stop, and a brawl ensued, Walla news report. In the fray, another man allegedly attacked a police officer and was arrested when he tried to flee the scene.

Shin Bet busts 2 Palestinians planning Hamas attack

The Shin Bet security service arrested two Palestinian men suspected of planning to carry out a shooting attack on behalf of Hamas, along with multiple other alleged members of the terrorist group as part of a West Bank-wide crackdown, the agency announces.

The two men — Muhammad A’azi from Jama’in in the northern West Bank and Noor Aldin Ghaith from Hebron — allegedly planned to lay down nails along a roadway in order to force cars to stop and only then open fire, thus making their attack more lethal, the Shin Bet says.

The two had reportedly scoped out different roads ahead of their attack. After his arrest, A’azi also handed over a weapon to the Shin Bet that they believe he planned to use in the attack.

The security service also picked up a group of alleged Hamas members from Biddu, in the central West Bank, who carried out a number of attacks near the Jerusalem suburbs of Har Adar and Ma’ale Hahamisha.

The suspects are believed to have thrown improvised explosive devices and Molotov cocktails at the communities, as well as carrying out one shooting at Har Adar and planning a second. There were no injuries reported in the incidents.

In the past month, the security service has also arrested several students from Bir Zeit University in the West Bank, members of the Hamas-affiliated Kutla Islamiyah, believed to be helping the terrorist group strengthen its grip on the campus, the Shin Bet says.

Military prosecutors are expected to file indictments against the suspects in the coming days.

— Judah Ari Gross

Far-right leaders dress as convicted soldier, Trump

It’s Purim in Israel, and far-right wing figures are joining in the festivities in the Jewish settlement in Hebron. Attorney Itamar Ben Gvir is dressed up as Elor Azaria, an IDF soldier convicted earlier this year of manslaughter, and Lehava leader Bentzi Gopstein is dressed (poorly) as US President Donald Trump.

Ya’alon says he wouldn’t block a right-wing government

Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon says that he wouldn’t prevent the establishment of a right-wing government should he form a party of his own ahead of prospective elections.

A Channel 2 survey published Friday found that a party headed by Ya’alon could win four seats in parliament, and be part of a coalition to block Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party from forming a government.

“I won’t be the one that would prevent the formation of a right-wing government,” Ya’alon says.

Austrian Airlines flight turns back due to dust storm

Austrian Airlines flight OS857 from Vienna to Tel Aviv is turned back to Vienna due to inclement weather in Tel Aviv.

The dust storm blowing into Israel from the Sinai Peninsula has caused bad visibility, prompting the plane to make a U-turn over the Mediterranean.

Israel ‘getting closer to apartheid every day,’ Labor MK says

Labor MK Omer Bar-Lev, who’s vying for the leadership of the party, tells i24 news that annexation of the West Bank would “lead to apartheid” and that Israel is “is getting closer to it [apartheid] every day.”

Trump administration tells Liberman it seeks two states

Senior Trump administration officials told Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman that they are working to make the two-state solution a reality, Channel 2 reports.

Greenblatt to talk settlements with Netanyahu tomorrow

Trump envoy Jason Greenblatt will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu and Israeli Ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer tomorrow to discuss West Bank settlement construction, Channel 2 reports.

Police clear Haifa mall over suspected car bomb

Police have closed a mall in Haifa out of concern that a car there is booby-trapped, Channel 10 reports.

IS fighters ‘trapped’ in Mosul after last road cut off

Iraqi forces battling to retake Mosul have cut the last road out of the city, trapping Islamic State group fighters inside, the US envoy to the anti-IS coalition said Sunday.

“ISIS is trapped. Just last night, the 9th Iraqi army division, up near Badush, just northwest of Mosul, cut off the last road out of Mosul,” Brett McGurk told journalists in Baghdad. “Any of the fighters who are left in Mosul, they’re going to die there.”

— AFP

All clear given at Haifa mall

Police have given the all clear with the car at a Haifa mall suspected of being rigged with a bomb. Nothing was found, Army Radio reports.

Al-Qaeda-linked group claims twin blasts in Damascus

An al-Qaeda-linked group has claimed responsibility for twin blasts near holy shrines frequented by Shiites in the Syrian capital Damascus that killed at least 40 people.

The Levant Liberation Committee said in a statement Sunday that the attack was carried out by two of its suicide attackers, claiming that they targeted pro-Iranian and pro-government militiamen.

Saturday’s attack also wounded over 100, most of them Iraqis, according to Syrian and Iraqi officials. The al-Qaida-linked group said the blasts were a message to Iran — a main backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The attacks came two weeks after members of the same group stormed two different security offices in the central city of Homs, killing and wounding scores of people, including a top Syrian security official.

— AP

German minister says threatened attack on mall linked to IS

A threatened attack against a mall in the western city of Essen is linked to the Islamic State extremist group, Germany’s interior minister said Sunday.

Thomas de Maiziere told public broadcaster ARD that Germany’s domestic intelligence service, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, had received “tips of an attack and passed them on” to local security authorities in Essen.

“The case was evaluated several times … and it couldn’t be eliminated that there could have been a concrete attack at this mall. This was prevented,” de Maiziere said.

Daily papers Bild, Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung and public broadcaster WDR had reported earlier, citing anonymous security sources, that a German fighter with the IS in Syria had contacted via online messenger a group of fighters — based in Germany and abroad — and tried to motivate them to attack the mall Saturday.

— AP

Ya’alon quits Likud party

Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon has officially left the Likud party, nearly a year after he was dismissed from his post. He is in the process of forming a new party, Israel Radio reports, and running for the leadership of the country.

Ya’alon: Likud ‘changed its face’

Ya’alon says in a statement that he remained loyal to the way of Likud party icons founders Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin, but that the Likud party has “changed its face.”

Madonna gets dressed as Snow White for Purim

Pop star Madonna is joining the Purim festivities and has shared pictures of herself in costume on her Instagram:

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