ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 146

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UN calls Smotrich’s comments on Huwara ‘irresponsible’ and ‘unacceptable’

Finance minister still expected to attend Israel Bonds conference in DC following inflammatory remarks, but is not expected to meet with any US officials during trip

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich presents the state budget at his Jerusalem ministry, February 28, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich presents the state budget at his Jerusalem ministry, February 28, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

UN calls Smotrich’s comments on Huwara ‘irresponsible’ and ‘unacceptable’

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich presents the state budget at his Jerusalem ministry, February 28, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich presents the state budget at his Jerusalem ministry, February 28, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric calls Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s remarks earlier this week about Huwara “irresponsible” and “unacceptable.”

“From our point of view, the statement that was made by Minister Smotrich is provocative, it’s inflammatory and statements like these are just unacceptable,” he says. “Coming from a government official, it’s irresponsible.”

The UN chief, Antonio Guterres, has reiterated his call for all sides to “refrain from incitement, inflammatory rhetoric and all acts of provocation,” Dujarric adds.

Smotrich said yesterday that while he was against citizens rampaging through the Palestinian town of Huwara earlier this week, he believes it should be done by security forces instead: “I think the village of Huwara needs to be wiped out. I think the State of Israel should do it,” Smotrich said.

Ex-MK pushes back on Sara Netanyahu’s claim that he called for her murder

Former MK Yair Golan attends a protest against the government organized by the Movement for Quality Government, in Tel Aviv on December 17, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Former MK Yair Golan attends a protest against the government organized by the Movement for Quality Government, in Tel Aviv on December 17, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Former Meretz deputy minister Yair Golan denies that he threatened Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife while she was trapped by protesters while visiting a Tel Aviv hair salon on Wednesday.

“I didn’t say it!” Golan, who confirmed he was at the protest site last night, told The Times of Israel shortly after Sara Netanyahu released a video claiming that Golan called for her “murder.”

“It’s spin. This is a transparent attempt by Netanyahu to gain empathy against the background of his destructive moves,” Golan adds.

“It’s time to finish the mission,” the premier’s wife claims Golan said, in a video released this evening by her husband’s Likud party. “And what is ‘to finish the mission,’ it’s to call for my murder,” she adds.

Netanyahu also calls attention to several threats against her family’s security in recent weeks.

“If they come through, I felt that they’ll just kill me,” she says of the broader protest group, claiming there was “a lot of violence.”

No violence was reported, despite thousands converging on the site, amidst a “day of disruption” held by tens of thousands of protesters against the government’s plan to sideline the judiciary.

PA health ministry: Teenager shot dead by Israeli gunfire near Qalqilya

Israeli security forces conduct a search operation following a reported stabbing attack in the West Bank village of Azzun near Qalqilya on September 7, 2019. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)
File: Israeli security forces conduct a search operation following a reported stabbing attack in the West Bank village of Azzun near Qalqilya on September 7, 2019. (Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)

The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry says a teenager has been shot dead and another is critically hurt by Israeli troops’ gunfire in the West Bank.

The ministry says 15-year-old Mohammed Salim was shot in the back in the town of Azzun, near Qalqilya, and a second teen is critically hurt after being shot in the chest.

The Israel Defense Forces does not immediately comment on the circumstances.

The Rescuers Without Borders emergency service says troops opened fire at Palestinians hurling Molotov cocktails in the town.

Three more children test positive for polio in northern Israel

Three more children have been diagnosed with polio after an 8-year-old child in the northern city of Safed tested positive for the virus on Monday.

A Health Ministry statement says that the three children had been in contact with the infected child, who was unvaccinated, and tested positive for the polio virus despite not having any symptoms (most polio cases are asymptomatic but the illness can be severe and even life-threatening in a small number of cases).

The ministry does not reveal the vaccination status of the three children who tested positive.

“In recent months, there is evidence of a spread of polio in many sewerage systems in Israel, which has more than 150,000 children unvaccinated against the virus,” the statement warns.

Smotrich still slated for US conference after talk of ‘wiping out’ Palestinian town

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich speaks at a Religious Zionism party press conference about the judicial overhaul in Jerusalem, February 19, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich speaks at a Religious Zionism party press conference about the judicial overhaul in Jerusalem, February 19, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s appearance at a conference in Washington hosted by the Israel Bonds organization is still slated to take place, even after the far-right lawmaker’s call yesterday to “wipe out” a Palestinian village, a source familiar with the matter tells The Times of Israel.

Meanwhile, Israel Bonds has issued its first public statement on the matter, though it avoids directly addressing Smotrich’s scheduled appearance.

“Development Corporation for Israel, known as Israel Bonds, has always maintained a focus on one core mission: to generate financial support through the sale of Israel bonds for the building and development of Israel’s economy without regard to politics,” the organization says.

“We are a nonpartisan financial organization, which sells Israel bonds issued by the State of Israel through its Finance Ministry. As part of their long-established responsibilities, Israel’s finance ministers from across the political spectrum have historically, over Israel Bonds’ 72-year history, attended our events. One of the organization’s most unique and paramount attributes is that it remains unbiased with regard to any political party or affiliation, enabling all to show unwavering support for the wellbeing of Israel and its people, through investments in Israel bonds.”

Ben Gvir blasts administrative detention of 2 suspects in Huwara riots

The decision to send two of the suspects in the Huwara riots to administrative detention is condemned by National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who bristles at the fact that “detention orders are issued for Jews while terrorism is ‘contained.'”

“I will contact [Defense Minister] Gallant and the prime minister this evening and demand clarification on this anti-democratic decision,” Ben Gvir says in a statement.

Israel warns businessmen of Iranian efforts to harm them — report

Israel has warned several businessmen active in Gulf nations and Africa that Iran is tracking them and looking to harm them, Channel 12 reports.

They have been warned to take precautions and take particular care regarding their movements and contacts, it says.

The report says the efforts by Tehran are part of its ongoing efforts to avenge the deaths of various officials, including nuclear scientists, for which Iran has blamed Israel.

Report: Netanyahu had meant to announce legislation pause, Levin threatened to quit

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Justice Minister Yariv Levin ahead of a vote on the government's judicial overhaul plans, in the Knesset on February 20, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Justice Minister Yariv Levin ahead of a vote on the government's judicial overhaul plans, in the Knesset on February 20, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had originally intended to announce during yesterday night’s primetime speech that judicial overhaul legislation was being paused, Channel 13 news reports.

The unsourced report says Netanyahu had meant to accept the president’s offer to pause legislation for some 10 days to allow negotiations.

But it says Justice Minister Yair Levin threatened to resign if the bills were paused for even a single day, leading Netanyahu to nix the plan.

Netanyahu and Levin’s offices both deny the claims as “fake news,” but the network says it stands behind it.

Channel 13 also reports that the bipartisan group of MKs who called for talks yesterday was originally larger, but that a number of Likud MKs withdrew their support at the last minute, fearing it would be seen as a victory for opponents, with ostensible divisions within Likud.

Sara Netanyahu: Hair salon standoff could have ended in murder

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife rails at protesters who demonstrated outside a Tel Aviv salon where she was getting her hair cut yesterday, with police called to the scene for several hours until she was extricated.

The incident came on a day of mass protests across the country against the government and its plans to curb the judiciary.

“The terrible incident that occurred yesterday could have ended in murder. The time has come to stop the anarchy,” she says on Instagram, echoing her husband’s statements about the protests.

“The time has come for opposition leaders to denounce the violence, anarchy and incitement,” Sara Netanyahu adds.

She also thanked security forces, specifically naming far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, for their “personal concern.”

Some protesters have contested the assertion that Netanyahu was ever in danger. Videos from the scene appeared to show protesters keeping their distance from the salon.

Court orders release of 8 Huwara riot suspects; 2 sent to administrative detention

A Jerusalem court has ordered police to release all eight suspects detained over the violent settler riots in the West Bank town of Huwara earlier this week, but the defense ministry signs off on an administrative detention order for two of them.

According to the Honenu legal aid organization representing the suspects detained in recent days, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ordered police to free all eight suspects due to lack of evidence of their involvement in the rioting.

Shortly after the court ordered their release, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant signed administrative detention orders against two of the suspects following recommendations by the Shin Bet security agency.

Administrative detention is a controversial practice whereby individuals can be held without charge practically indefinitely, and are not granted access to the evidence against them.

While it is rarely used against Jewish suspects, just under 1,000 Palestinians are currently held in custody under the practice.

The order against the pair, one of whom is a minor, is currently valid for four months.

British navy seizes Iran missiles and parts likely bound for Yemen

In this photo from the US Army, anti-tank missiles and medium-range ballistic missile components seized by the United Kingdom Royal Navy sit pier side at an undisclosed location in the Middle East on February 26, 2023. (Sgt. Brandon Murphy/US Army via AP)
In this photo from the US Army, anti-tank missiles and medium-range ballistic missile components seized by the United Kingdom Royal Navy sit pier side at an undisclosed location in the Middle East on February 26, 2023. (Sgt. Brandon Murphy/US Army via AP)

The British navy has seized anti-tank missiles and fins for ballistic missile assemblies during a raid on a small boat heading from Iran likely to Yemen, authorities say, the latest such seizure in the Gulf of Oman.

The seizure by the Royal Navy comes after other seizures by French and US forces in the region as Western powers increase their pressure on Iran, which is now enriching uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels. It also comes as regional and international powers try to find an end to the yearslong war gripping Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, and as Iran arms Russia in its war on Ukraine.

The raid took place February 23 after an American aircraft detected a small motorboat with cargo covered by a gray tarp heading from Iran, with a helicopter from the Royal Navy frigate HMS Lancaster chasing the vessel as it ignored being hailed by radio, the British Defense Ministry says. The boat tried to reenter Iranian territorial water, but was stopped before it could.

Police chief: We are obligated to right to protest, cannot accept violence

Police chief Kobi Shabtai attends a police ceremony in Beit Shemesh, November 7, 2022. (Flash90)
Police chief Kobi Shabtai attends a police ceremony in Beit Shemesh, November 7, 2022. (Flash90)

Speaking at a police event, Commissioner Kobi Shabtai says of the criticism of the force’s conduct during yesterday’s demonstrations: “The right to protest is at the very soul of Israeli democracy, and police are obligated to this.”

However, he adds, “we cannot accept violence and widespread riots. And certainly, as commissioner, I can’t accept officers being attacked.”

Linguistics conference planned for Israel moved over West Bank policies

A conference of an international linguistics society that had been set to take place in Israel next year has been moved to another country, Haaretz reports, after its leadership was pressured to do so over Israel’s policies toward Palestinians.

The GLOW summit was to be held at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba.

Other considerations were Israel’s lack of diplomatic relations with certain countries, which would make it difficult for some members of the society to attend, as well as concerns of how members who have publicly spoken out against Israel would be treated at the border upon entry.

Israeli forces conclude 10-day drill with American Marines in Israel

Israeli infantry troops and US Marines are seen during the joint Intrepid Maven exercise in Israel, February 28, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
Israeli infantry troops and US Marines are seen during the joint Intrepid Maven exercise in Israel, February 28, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli infantry and artillery forces wrap up a 10-day drill with the US Marines in Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces says the drill, dubbed Intrepid Maven, “strengthened cooperation between infantry and artillery soldiers and mutual learning between the armies.”

According to the US Marine Corps Forces Central Command (MARCENT), some 200 marines and sailors participated in the exercise. The drill is the sixth in a series of US Marine drills — all using the Intrepid Maven name — held with allied nations in the Middle East.

Man arrested at protest: Police didn’t know why I was taken in

Nahman Geva, a 51-year-old protester who spent the night in a jail cell after being arrested in yesterday’s protests, tells Walla news he has been barred from protesting for 15 days.

“At the end of the restraining order period I’ll go back to protesting,” he says, adding he is not frightened of being arrested again. “What frightens me is what’s happening in the country and what this government and Knesset are rushing toward.”

He says he doesn’t know why he was arrested, after protesting at Karkur Junction yesterday. Police sprayed demonstrators with foul-smelling water and when he did not move, he was taken in.

He says throughout his questioning by police it seemed they did not know themselves why he had been arrested, giving various, changing justifications.

“They really didn’t know,” he says.

Mother of brothers murdered in attack criticizes crowdfunding campaign for Huwara

The mother of two young brothers killed in a terror attack this week has criticized a crowdfunding campaign seeking donations for Huwara, the village where the attack occurred, after rampaging settlers set fire to numerous cars and buildings in response.

Labor party member Yaya Fink launched an online crowdfunding campaign the morning after the riot in which a 37-year-old Palestinian man was killed, some three hundred were wounded — four of them seriously — and dozens of buildings and vehicles were torched. The riot came hours after the two Israeli brothers were killed in a terror shooting in Huwara. The Yaniv brothers’ killer has not yet been caught.

The brothers’ mother, Esti Yaniv, says in a video posted online today: “I get up every morning looking out at the village of murderers Huwara, where the murderer of my sons is walking around. The village of murderers, where treats were handed out [to celebrate the murder].”

She says she is “horrified” by the crowdfunding effort, “a backward campaign for the people who handed out baklawas after the murder of my children.”

Speaking to Channel 12 in response, Fink notes that he does “50 days of reserve duty a year” in which he fights Palestinian terror, and says: “I still think, even if I’ll be the last one to say it, that we need to fight terrorists and eliminate them, but there are innocents among Palestinians, and those who burn down their homes and burn innocents have forgotten their humanity and forgotten how to be Jewish.”

Jerusalem court convicts 4 who took part in 2015 ‘hate wedding’ of incitement

The Jerusalem District Court has convicted four participants in the infamous “hate wedding” in 2015, after they were filmed celebrating the murder of a Palestinian baby.

The four, who were minors at the time of the incident, were convicted of incitement to violence. They join the groom and several others who were convicted last year.

The court thus overturns a previous exoneration of the four, determining that they were aware that the photos held up at the wedding were of the Dawabsha family, who were murdered in a deadly firebombing attack in the West Bank village of Duma, and were aware that their actions could lead to violence.

A lawyer for one of the defendants calls the ruling “absurd.” He does not say whether the latest ruling will be appealed.

Unarmed Palestinian arrested while crossing from Gaza

An unarmed Palestinian was arrested by Israeli troops while attempting to cross into Israel from the Gaza Strip earlier today, the military says.

The Israel Defense Forces says the suspect, who tried to infiltrate through the barrier in the northern part of Gaza, is taken for questioning.

Iran arrests 4 over assault linked to school poisonings — media

Iranian authorities arrest four people in connection with an assault on a woman outside a girls’ school that was targeted in a wave of poisoning attacks, a news agency says.

Hundreds of cases of respiratory distress have been reported in the past three months among schoolgirls in what one government official said could be an attempt to force the closure of girls’ schools in the Islamic Republic.

Elite soldiers from 669, Duvdevan units pen letters opposing judicial overhaul

The list of reservist soldiers threatening to not show up for duty over the government’s judicial overhaul plans continues to grow.

More than 100 reservist troops of the Israeli Air Force’s elite helicopter-borne search and rescue unit publish a letter saying: “We will not be able to serve our country if the legislative moves are fully passed without dialogue and agreement.”

“Despite the warnings of experts from Israel and the world, despite the calls of the president, and despite huge protests that have been taking place for weeks, the government continues to advance the legislation,” members of Unit 669 say in the letter.

Additionally, some 80 reservists of the elite undercover Duvdevan infantry unit publish a similar letter.

“This legislation will cause serious harm to Israeli democracy and therefore we have decided to come out of the shadows, make our voices heard, and hereby call on the government and the coalition to stop the legislative moves and come to a broad consensus,” the Duvdevan members say.

The soldiers join groups of pilots, armored corps, submariners, sailors, and other special forces who have penned similar letters in recent weeks.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has said that reservists’ threats to refuse to serve if the government’s judicial overhaul is passed harm national security.

Judge orders 2 protesters freed, rejecting police demand they be barred from rallies

Nearly all of the dozens of protesters arrested during yesterday’s demonstrations have been released.

The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court has now ordered the release of two of the four remaining people under arrest.

According to Ynet, the judge criticized police for demanding that the two men stay away from protests for 15 days, calling it an “extreme” demand that causes “disproportionate harm to the basic right to protest.”

The judge noted in his decision that the two were not violent, and that police do not contest this.

Another person still under arrest is accused of attempting to grab a policeman’s weapon.

France says Iran uranium enrichment ‘very concerning’

France calls developments in Iran’s nuclear program “very concerning” after the UN nuclear watchdog reported finding uranium particles enriched just under the 90 percent needed for an atomic bomb.

“This report states that the direction Iran is taking is very concerning,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre tells reporters, adding this development is “unprecedented and extremely serious.”

Report: UAE canceled Netanyahu visit fearing he’d use it to speak against Iran

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet meeting on the state budget, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on February 23, 2023. ((Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet meeting on the state budget, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on February 23, 2023. ((Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)

The United Arab Emirates canceled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned visit in January due to concerns his conduct during the visit could increase regional tensions with Iran, the Walla new site reports, citing three Israeli officials with knowledge of the matter.

The Prime Minister’s Office has said the visit was canceled for logistical reasons.

The officials tell the outlet the Emiratis wanted the visit to focus on the Abraham Accords and bilateral relations, but that they feared Netanyahu wanted to use the visit to speak publicly against Iran.

The PMO does not comment on the report.

Otzma Yehudit warns Haredi parties against thwarting death sentence bill

The far-right Otzma Yehudit party is warning that it could thwart coalition legislation if Haredi parties do not continue to support its bill for a death sentence for terrorists.

Sources in the party tell the Srugim website: “If their fingers are free, our fingers can be free on various bills.”

The bill passed its preliminary reading in the Knesset plenum yesterday, but Haredi parties have warned they are unlikely to support it in further votes due to their religious beliefs.

Actions of cop who hurled stun grenade into crowd to be probed

The Police Internal Investigations Department in the Justice Ministry is probing the conduct of a police officer who hurled a stun grenade into a crowd of anti-government protesters Wednesday.

A complaint was filed against the officer after video showed him casually throwing a grenade into the center of a crowd of demonstrators, despite regulations against doing so.

In response, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir says: “I give full backing to the officer who dispersed rioting anarchists with a stun grenade.”

He says the officer, “unlike PIID personnel sitting in their air-conditioned rooms, must deal with the anarchists.”

He also suggested the PIID might be acting “from a political motivation,” though he offers no reason for the claim.

 

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