The Times of Israel is liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.
Prime Minister Theresa May has asked the European Union to delay Britain’s departure from the European Union until June 30.
The UK is currently due to leave the bloc in nine days, but Parliament has twice rejected May’s divorce deal with the EU.
May told European Council President Donald Tusk in a letter seeking the extension that she intends to try a third time to get the deal approved.
A delay to Brexit needs approval from all 27 remaining EU member states, who are meeting in Brussels tomorrow.
Reports of shots fired at an Israeli bus traveling in the northern West Bank are being investigated, a Samaria Regional Council spokeswoman says.
No injuries have been reported from the gunfire, but a number of passengers are being treated for emotional trauma. The bus sustained damage in the incident, which took place near the entrance to the Palestinian village of Dier Istiya.
— Jacob Magid
Senior PLO official Dr. Hanan Ashrawi condemns Israel for razing a Palestinian school in East Jerusalem, and says the international community’s failure to hold Israel accountable is increasing extremism in Israeli politics.
In a statement, Ashrawi says yesterday’s demolition in the Shuafat refugee camp is “part and parcel of the relentless Israeli plans to uproot Palestinians from the occupied city of Jerusalem.”
She says the international community is failing to address the “grave escalation” of Israeli violence towards Palestinians as well as the “unprecedented expansion” of settlement building in the West Bank.
“This international failure also feeds into and encourages the rightwing and fascism frenzy in Israeli politics, as evident in the objectionable campaign video by Israel’s so-called justice minister promoting fascism as an element of democracy.”
Yesterday, Israel’s Defense Minister Ayelet Shaked drew criticism for a political ad ahead of April elections in which she mocked critics by modeling a faux perfume called “Fascism.”
A resident of the United Arab Emirates who works for a security firm was detained and deported after making comments on Facebook celebrating the New Zealand mosque attacks that killed 50 people.
Transguard Group says its employee, who was not identified, made the comments on his personal Facebook page under an assumed name. Transguard says the employee was stripped of his security credentials, fired and handed over to authorities.
It says the UAE, where the official religion is Islam, deported him. Transguard, which is part of the Emirates aviation group in Dubai, did not elaborate.
The UAE’s National newspaper reports the employee was believed to be a security officer whose Facebook post celebrating Friday’s shooting included reference to a deadly attack on Indian soldiers in Kashmir last month.
European Union regulators have hit Google with a 1.49 billion euro ($1.68 billion) fine for abusing its dominant role in online advertising.
It’s the third time the commission has slapped Google with an antitrust penalty, following multibillion-dollar fines resulting from separate probes into two other parts of the Silicon Valley giant’s business.
The EU’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, announces the results of the long-running probe of Google’s AdSense advertising business at a news conference in Brussels.
“Today’s decision is about how Google abused its dominance to stop websites using brokers other than the AdSense platform,” Vestager says.
The commission found that Google and its parent company, Alphabet, breached EU antitrust rules by imposing restrictive clauses in contracts with websites that used AdSense, preventing Google rivals from placing their ads on these sites.
Forty animals including five lions are to be rescued from squalid conditions in the Gaza Strip, according to an animal welfare group.
The animals will be taken out of a zoo in the Palestinian enclave and relocated to sanctuaries in Jordan next week, the Four Paws organization says.
Among the other animals to be taken out are a hyena, monkeys, wolves and porcupines, the organization says in a statement.
“For far too long, the animals of Rafah Zoo have had to live under unimaginably dreadful conditions,” says Four Paws veterinarian and head of mission Amir Khalil. “We are happy to finally put an end to this horror.”
Delaying Brexit to June 30 would bring “serious legal and political risks”, the European Commission warns in an internal briefing note ahead of an EU summit.
Britain has asked to postpone Brexit to that date, but the commission, the EU’s executive arm, is urging leaders to choose instead between a short delay to May 23 or a longer one to “at least until end 2019.”
The IDF says protective barrier placed in front of a bus stop in the central West Bank that was the scene of a terrorist attack earlier this year is being removed following an uproar from right-wing politicians and settler leaders.
The announcement comes shortly after the army tweeted a picture of the bulletproof barrier at the Givat Assaf Junction, leading to backlash.
Education Minister and New Right co-chair Naftali Bennett called the barrier “a surrender and submission to terrorism.”
Union of Right Wing Parties chairman Rafi Peretz said erecting the bulletproof structure was proof that Israel was “slowly losing its national honor.”
The IDF says the barricade will be removed by the end of the day, and that no others will be erected beyond the Green Line.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the Blue and White party is driving the new revelations in the submarine graft case because it is panicking in the wake of the Iranian phone hacking scandal.
At a press conference held at his Jerusalem residence, Netanyahu says his main election rivals reached a “new low” by advertising the submarine case, despite police determining there was “nothing wrong” in his conduct.
“How can you as a prime minister confront Iran, our number 1 enemy, when it has sensitive content about you,” he says. “It’s not gossip, it’s a matter of national security.”
Netanyahu goes on to accuse Gantz of poor judgment, and calls on him to publicly reveal what was on his phone.
“You hid info from the members of your party, maybe you think you could hide it from citizens of Israel, too,” he said. “Israel needs a strong leader who can’t be blackmailed.”
Earlier, Blue and White asked the Central Elections Committee to prevent Netanyahu from holding a campaign event at the Prime Minister’s Office citing electioneering laws, but the chairman rejected the request.
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz issues an ultimatum to Netanyahu after the prime minister urged him to release all the information stored on his phone that could have been collected by a Iranian hackers.
“Mr. Netanyahu, answer me one question by 8 p.m.: Why did you receive NIS 16 million shekels from a company that supplies the submarine manufacturer and why did you hide it from the public?” Gantz says in a statement, referring to the money Netanyahu allegedly received from a deal linked to the Case 3000 submarine investigation.
A spokesperson for Blue and White did not say what would happen if Netanyahu did not provide an answer by that time, and said there are no plans to respond to the earlier demands made by Netanyahu.
During a press conference held at his residence, Netanyahu accused Gantz of poor judgment, and said he was unfit to lead because he could be potentially blackmailed. Netanyahu called on Gantz, his main rival in the April elections, to reveal the information on his hacked phone to the Israeli public.
— Raoul Wootliff
United Nations appeals judges uphold the convictions of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity and increased his sentence from 40 years to life imprisonment.
Karadzic showed almost no reaction as presiding judge Vagn Joensen of Denmark read out a damning judgment that means the 73-year-old former Bosnian strongman will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Joensen said the trial chamber was wrong to impose just a 40-year sentence given what he called the “sheer scale and systematic cruelty” of his crimes.
Applause broke out in the public gallery as Joensen passed the new sentence.
Separately, the judges rejected a prosecution appeal against Karadzic’s acquittal on a second count of genocide in the same war.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit says it’s not legally possible for Otzma Yehudit to update its Knesset slate after the High Court disqualified the leader of the extremist party from running in the April election.
In response to the top court’s ban on Michael Ben Ari, Otzma Yehudit demanded that the Central Elections Committee allow Itamar Ben Gvir be moved up from eighth to fifth position on the Union of Right Wing Parties list, and approve an updating of the faction’s deal with the URWP to grant Ben Gvir a key ministerial post in the next government.
In a legal opinion submitted to the committee ahead of its decision, Mandelblit says the election panel does not have the legal authority to alter the Knesset slates after they have already been approved.
On Sunday, the High Court voted in favor of a petition calling for Ben Ari to be disqualified over his anti-Arab ideology and incitement, overturning a decision by the elections committee.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lands in Israel. He will hold a series of meetings later this evening with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders evening focused on countering Iranian aggression. Pompeo is also set to attend a tripartite meeting between the leaders of Israel, Greece and Cyprus about a planned natural gas pipeline from the Mediterranean to Europe.
— Emmanuel Nahshon (@EmmanuelNahshon) March 20, 2019
— Raphael Ahren
The UN human rights chief warns that children in Yemen continue to be killed and maimed at an alarming rate, despite a three-month-old truce in a vital port.
“Since the Stockholm agreement on December 13, it is estimated that eight children have been killed or injured in Yemen every day,” Michelle Bachelet told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Yemen’s beleaguered Saudi-backed government and Iranian-linked Houthi rebels agreed in Sweden on a truce that included a ceasefire in Hodeida, the lifeline port on the Red Sea.
But Bachelet says children are currently living in 31 active conflict zones across the country, and witnessing “heavy, war-related violence,” including in Taez, Hajjah and Saada.
The Norwegian Refugee Council said earlier this week that 348 civilians had been killed in Hajjah and Taez alone since the Stockholm accord was signed.
US President Donald Trump will host Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House next week, Trump’s spokeswoman says.
A working meeting will be held on Monday, with a dinner for the two leaders on Tuesday, according to a statement from Sarah Sanders.
“The president and the prime minister will discuss their countries’ shared interests and actions in the Middle East,” she says.
The visit will come three weeks before Israel’s national election.
The announcement shortly after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in Israel for talks with Netanyahu that is seen as a bid to help Netanyahu’s election campaign.
— AFP and Raphael Ahren
A spokesperson for Blue and White tells The Times of Israel that party leader Benny Gantz will not be meeting with US President Donald Trump during his visit to the US next week.
Asked if was fair that the US president will be meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and not Gantz, the spokesperson says it “wouldn’t be respectful to invite a candidate or challenger to meet at the White House.”
“Netanyahu is the incumbent and that is understood,” the spokesperson adds.
Netanyahu and Gantz are set to address the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington next week.
— Raoul Wootliff
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is praising US efforts to isolate Iran, and says Washington and Jerusalem are working together to to counter “aggression” from the Islamic Republic.
“I would like to thank Trump for leaving the Iran nuclear deal, he said he would do it and he did,” he says at a press conference alongside visiting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“The pressure on Iran is working, but we need to increase and expand it, and together the US and Israel are working in close coordination to roll back Iranian aggression in the region and around the world,” he says.
Netanyahu also calls for the international community to recognize the Golan Heights as sovereign Israeli territory, noting the recently exposed activity along the Syrian border by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah.
“Last week we struck Hezbollah targets in the north, now is the time for the international community to recognize the Golan as part of Israeli territory,” he says.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hails the “unparalleled” US military support for Israel after Iran-focused talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“With such threats, a daily reality of Israeli life, we maintain our unparalleled commitment to Israel’s security and firmly support your right to defend yourself,” he says at a press conference alongside Netanyahu in Jerusalem.
He says the US is “proud” to deploy its THAAD simile defense system in Israel, to defend against the missile “threats it faces from Gaza, Syria and Lebanon and elsewhere.”
Pompeo praises the warm Israel-US ties and voices tough words against Iran. He touts last month’s Mideast conference in Warsaw, where he says dozens of countries discussed ways to stop “Iran’s regional rampage.”
In his remarks, Pompeo adds that the Trump administration is “dedicated” to fighting rising anti-Semitism in the US.
European Union chief Donald Tusk says the EU will agree to a short Brexit delay on the condition that UK lawmakers approve a divorce agreement they’ve rejected twice.
Tusk says “that a short extension will be possible, but it will be conditional on a positive vote” in the UK parliament on the Brexit agreement British Prime Minister Theresa May reached with the EU.
The European Council president says May’s petition for a withdrawal date of June 30 instead of March 29 poses legal and political issues since elections for the EU Parliament are being held May 23-26.
He stresss that the existing Brexit deal won’t be reopened, though says he doesn’t see a problem with May’s March 11 agreement with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that provided some extra guarantees.
Tusk is set to chair a summit of EU nation leaders tomorro.
US President Donald Trump says the last of the Islamic State’s territory in Syria will be freed by US-backed forces “by tonight.”
Speaking as he leaves the White House, Trump displays maps of IS-held territory in Iraq and Syria on the day he was elected and as of this morning.
The most recent map shows what Trump says is a “tiny spot which will be gone by tonight.” He says when he was elected, Syria was “a mess” and awash in IS fighters.
US-backed fighters battling to retake the last IS outpost in eastern Syria seized most of the last pocket of land yesterday.
Trump has previously announced the defeat of the group, but sleeper cells of fighters remain in Syria.
Trump says the US will keep 400 troops in Syria indefinitely, including 200 near the Israeli borer.
— with AP
An internet watchdog group says the widow of a slain Mexican journalist was the target of an attempted spyware attack 10 days after his death.
Toronto-based Citizen Lab says the attempt to place Pegasus spy software was aimed at Griselda Triana, the widow of Javier Valdez.
Wednesday’s announcement brings to 25 the number of known cases involving the spyware — including two of Valdez’s colleagues at the Riodoce weekly in the northern state of Sinaloa.
The other two attempted hacks took place the day after Valdez was killed on May 15, 2017. It remains unclear who carried them out or for what purpose.
Pegasus was developed by the Israeli cyber security company NSO Group, and allows for monitoring of devices and their content, including the remote activation of cameras and microphones without users’ knowledge.
— with AP
State prosecutors are mulling whether to open a criminal investigation into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the high-profile submarine corruption investigation, Hadashot news reports.
The report comes shortly after media outlets revealed that Netanyahu had sold stock in a company that supplied services to German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp, who was supplying submarines to the Israeli navy.
Netanyahu was previously questioned as a witness in the case and was not considered a suspect.
Earlier today, Netanyahu’s main election challenger Benny Gantz alleged the prime minister gained 16 million shekels ($4.4 million) from his stock that rose due to a deal to buy an unnecessary submarine.
A new poll broadcast by Channel 12 ahead of April 9’s elections shows Benny Gantz’s Blue and White rising slightly compared to a previous survey by the same channel six days ago, but the Benjamin Netanyahu-led right-wing bloc is best-placed to form the next coalition.
The seats: Blue and White 32, Likud 27, Labor 10, Hadash-Taal 8, United Torah Judaism 7, The New Right 6, Union of Right Wing Parties 5, Shas 5, and Kulanu, Meretz, Raam-Balad, Yisrael Beytenu and Zehut all on 4.
The poll says Netanyahu is slightly preferred as prime minister to Gantz, by 36-35%. It also finds 48% think personal motives were a factor for Netanyahu in the so-called submarine scandal, while 25% do not.
This poll indicates 62 seats for the right-wing bloc, and 58 for centrist, left and Arab parties.
A Channel 13 poll finds as follows: Blue and White 31, Likud 29, Labor 9, Hadash-Taal 7, United Torah Judaism 7, Union of Right Wing Parties 7, The New Right 6, Shas, Kulanu, Meretz and Zehut 5 each, and Raam-Balad 4.
The poll says Gantz is slightly preferred as prime minister to Netanyahu, by 42-41%.
It indicates 64 seats for the right-wing bloc, and 56 for centrist, left and Arab parties.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attends a four-way meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades in Jerusalem.
The leaders discussed plans to build a natural gas pipeline from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is currently meeting in Jerusalem with President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. ???????????????????????????????? pic.twitter.com/F2ObhYLHY3
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) March 20, 2019
The so-called EastMed Pipeline Project will start about 170 kilometers off Cyprus’s southern coast and stretch for 2,200 kilometers to reach Otranto, Italy, via Crete and the Greek mainland. the pipeline will have the capacity to carry up to 20 billion cubic meters of gas yearly.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will accompany visiting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to the Jerusalem’s Old City Thursday afternoon for a visit to the Western Wall holy site, according to his office.
Though many visiting dignitaries visit the Western Wall, an Israeli-hosted visit to the flashpoint holy site in East Jerusalem, where Palestinians envision the capital of their future state, is seen as politically significant.
Pompeo is also set to visit the new US Embassy which moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem last year, driving a diplomatic wedge into US-Palestinian relations.
US federal authorities say a Palestinian man lied about his possible ties to terrorist organizations and acts of violence against Israeli military forces in order to travel to the US.
The US attorney for Massachusetts says 19-year-old Waad Alzerei is charged with visa fraud and making materially false statements.
Prosecutors say he flew to Boston on Feb. 27. Alzerei, whose leg is amputated, told customs officers he was seeking medical treatment and lost the leg when he was shot by a sniper while picking olives.
Prosecutors say officers searched Alzerei’s cellphone and found images that seemed to show his possible affiliation with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Hamas, and showed him throwing rocks at Israeli Defense Forces the day he was shot.
A call was left with his public defender.
Residents of the West Bank settlement of Efrat report hearing sounds of gunfire from the nearby Efrat Junction, in the Gush Eztion bloc.
No injuries are reported, and security forces are at the scene investigating the reported gunfire.
— Jacob Magid
Israeli drones carry out strikes in the central Gaza Strip, according to reports in Palestinian media.
The strikes were reportedly targeting a group of Gazans attempting to launch arson balloons across the border into Israeli territory.
No injures are reported.