Hamas names suspect in bomb attack on PA premier
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Hamas names suspect in bomb attack on PA premier

Terror group says Anas abu Koussa is lead suspect in bombing that Palestinian Authority has accused it of orchestrating

Hamas personnel inspect the site of an explosion that occurred as the convoy of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah entered Gaza through the Erez crossing with Israel, on the main road in Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip, on March 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Hamas personnel inspect the site of an explosion that occurred as the convoy of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah entered Gaza through the Erez crossing with Israel, on the main road in Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip, on March 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

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

Texas bombing suspect blows himself up as police close in

ROUND ROCK, Texas — The suspect in a series of bombing attacks in Austin blows himself up early Wednesday as authorities closed in, a dramatic end to a weekslong siege of the Texas capital, where two were killed and four injured in a series of blasts.

Authorities had zeroed in on the suspect in the last 24 to 36 hours and located his vehicle at a hotel on Interstate 35 in the suburb of Round Rock, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley says at a news conference. They were waiting for ballistic vehicles to arrive to move in for an arrest when his vehicle began to drive away, Manley says. Authorities followed the vehicle, which ran into a ditch on the side of the road, the police chief says.

When members of the SWAT team approached, the suspect detonated an explosive device inside the vehicle, the police chief says. The blast knocked back one officer, while a second officer fired his weapon, Manley says.

Authorities identify the suspect only as a 24-year-old white man and wouldn’t say if he was from Austin.

Austin has been targeted by four package bombings since March 2 that killed two people and seriously wounded four others. A fifth parcel bomb detonated at a FedEx distribution center near San Antonio early Tuesday.

Manley says the suspect is believed to be responsible for all the major Austin bombings. Authorities also say they didn’t know his motive.

— AP

Emergency vehicles stage near the site of another explosion on March 20, 2018, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Death toll from market attack in Damascus rises to 38

BEIRUT — The death toll from an insurgent mortar assault on a market in Damascus rises to 38, state media says Wednesday, making it one of the deadliest attacks in the capital since the start of the seven-year civil war.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights puts the death toll from Tuesday’s attack even higher, at 43, including 11 pro-government fighters. Videos of the aftermath posted online show scenes of chaos, with people screaming and bodies and mannequins strewn across the ground.

The government blames the attack on rebels in the Eastern Ghouta suburbs, where Syrian troops backed by Russian warplanes have been waging a major offensive over the past month.

Mohammed Haitham al-Husseini, director of the hospital in Damascus, tells Al-Ikhbariya that 35 others were wounded in the mortar attack, with six in intensive care. He says most of the casualties were women and children.

— AP

Austrian diplomat summoned from Israel over ‘Nazi’ shirt

VIENNA — Austria’s foreign ministry summons an attache from its embassy in Israel after he posted a picture of himself on social media wearing a T-shirt bearing the name of a Nazi tank division.

A screenshot of the post on Juergen-Michael Kleppich’s Facebook page shows him in the green shirt with the words “Stand your ground” and “Frundsberg,” the Falter weekly reported.

The last name of Georg von Frundsberg, who was a mercenary in the 15th century, was used by the Nazis during World War II for its 10th SS Panzer division.

Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl orders Kleppich “be summoned to Vienna immediately to submit to a legal probe into the accusations in the media,” her ministry says.

The episode is the latest embarrassment for a member of the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) since it came to power in December in a coalition with the center-right People’s Party.

Kleppich, who is also an FPOe local councilor in a district of Vienna, had previously posted a photo of his grandfather in a Nazi uniform, complete with swastika, according to Falter.

— AFP

Soldier grilled by Military Police over accidental shooting death of comrade

Military Police question an IDF soldier suspected of killing his comrade when his weapon accidentally discharged.

Investigators say the findings of the investigation will be transferred to military prosecutors, according to Hadashot TV news.

The suspect is suspected of playing with his gun when it went off, killing Sgt. Shahar Strug, 20, a member of the elite Duvdevan unit.

Strug will be buried today at 3 p.m. at the military cemetery in Kiryat Shaul.

Sgt. Shahar Strug (IDF spokesman)

IS suicide bomber kills 29 as Afghans celebrate new year

KABUL, Afghanistan — An Islamic State suicide bomber strikes on the road to a Shiite shrine in Afghanistan’s capital on Wednesday, killing at least 29 people as Afghans celebrate the Persian new year.

The Public Health Ministry says another 52 people were wounded in the attack, which was carried out by a bomber on foot.

The Islamic State group claims the attack in an online statement, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadi websites. IS says the attack targeted “a gathering of Shiites celebrating Nauruz.”

The Persian new year, known in Afghanistan as Nauruz, is a national holiday, and the country’s minority Shiites typically celebrate by visiting shrines. The Sunni extremists of IS have repeatedly targeted Shiites, who they view as apostates deserving of death.

The attack took place near Kabul University and a government hospital, around one kilometer (mile) away from the Sakhi shrine, where people were gathered to celebrate the new year, says Gen. Daud Amin, Kabul’s police chief.

— AP

Police patrol the streets after a suicide attack in front of the Kabul university in Kabul, on March 21, 2018. (AP Photo/ Rahmat Gul)

Soldier gets 5.5 year prison sentence for raping female comrade

A military court sentences an IDF soldier convicted of raping a female soldier who served with him to 5.5 years in prison, the army says.

The court also demotes the soldier to the rank of sergeant and orders he pay compensation to the victim.

The IDF says the incident took place at the home of the female soldier in June 2017.

Saudis revamp school curriculum to combat Muslim Brotherhood

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia is seeking to purge its school curriculum of any influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and dismiss employees who sympathize with the banned group, the education minister says.

The government will “fight extremist ideologies by reviewing school curricula and books to ensure they are free of the banned Muslim Brotherhood’s agenda,” Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Issa says in a statement Tuesday.

It also seeks to “ban books attributed to the Muslim Brotherhood from all schools and universities and remove all those who sympathies with the group,” he adds.

The statement comes after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told CBS television in an interview Sunday that elements of the Muslim Brotherhood, designated as a terror group by the kingdom, had infiltrated Saudi schools.

Many members of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood — who advocate toppling rulers deemed unjust — sought refuge in Saudi Arabia after being persecuted in the 1960s by then Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser.

The Islamists were widely employed in the education and public sectors, putting aside their proselytism and submitting to Saudi Arabia’s official Wahhabi ideology that requires obedience to the ruler.

— AFP

Rivlin pays condolence visit to family of Old City stabbing victim

President Reuven Rivlin pays a condolence visit to the family of Adiel Kolman, who was stabbed to death Sunday in a terror attack in Jerusalem’s Old City.

“When I heard you say you choose life, when I heard about the strength you found the morning of [his] passing to tell the Israeli nation about who your special son was, how great his soul was [and] how much room it had for everyone — my heart broke,” Rivlin says he told Kolman’s mother Yael.

Kolman was buried Monday in the central West Bank settlement of Kochav Hashachar, where he lived.

The terrorist, 28-year-old Abd al-Rahman Bani Fadel from Aqraba, near the West Bank city of Nablus, was shot dead by police at the scene.

Egypt hands life sentences to 9 on terror-related charges

CAIRO — An Egyptian court on Wednesday sentences in absentia nine alleged Muslim Brotherhood members to life imprisonment for forming a “terrorist cell” to plot attacks on security forces and other institutions.

Life sentences in Egypt are equal to 25 years, and the suspects, who remain at large, can be re-tried once they are apprehended.

The Cairo Criminal Court also sentences another 13 defendants to 10 years each on similar charges, including planning to kill public figures and security officials, and joining an outlawed group, a reference to the Brotherhood. Two minors are sentenced each to two years. Those 15 suspects are in custody and their sentences can be appealed.

Egypt designated the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization after the 2013’s removal from power of president Mohammed Morsi, a senior Brotherhood figure. Morsi has been jailed and sentenced to death.

Also today, Egypt’s chief prosecutor refers 30 people to trial, suspected of belonging to an Islamic State affiliate. According to a statement, the suspects plotted assault on security personnel and state institutions, as well as Egypt’s Christian minority and churches. The statement says they trained in IS camps in Syria and Libya.

No date has been set for the trial.

— AP

Elbit seeking to operate crop-surveying drone from North Dakota airport

CASSELTON, North Dakota — An Israeli defense and electronics company wants to launch a crop-surveying drone from the Casselton Regional Airport.

Airport Authority chairman Bob Miller tells KFGO the Israeli company, Elbit Systems, would gather crop information across the Upper Midwest that would be analyzed and sold to farmers.

Elbit wants to lease hangar space for the large drone it flies, and install equipment it needs to fly it. The FAA requires a chase plane to provide visual supervision when the drone flies. Lease costs are still being negotiated.

The company would have nine employees based in Casselton during the months the flights are made.

— AP

Soldier killed by stray bullet laid to rest

Hundreds attend the funeral of Sgt. Shahar Strug, a member of the IDF’s elite Duvdevan unit killed by a stray bullet on his base.

He is being buried at the military cemetery in Kiryat Shaul.

His funeral comes as Military Police question the soldier whose gun accidentally discharged, killing Strug.

UN envoy warns enemies ‘not to test’ Israel

After Israel confirmed it destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007, its envoy to the UN warns foes “not to test” the country’s resolve.

“The international community must know that Israel will always protect the security of its citizens and take all necessary steps in the face of threats in our region,” says Danny Danon.

“Our enemies would be wise not to test Israel’s resolve or question our readiness to defend our nation,” he adds.

Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, speaks at the General Assembly on December 21, 2017, at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Russia: UK either behind spy poisoning or unable to stop ‘terrorist attack’

MOSCOW — Russia says Britain either failed to protect a Russian national from what it termed a “terrorist attack” or was itself behind the poisoning of the former double agent and his daughter.

“The British authorities are either unable to ensure protection from such a… terrorist attack on its territory, or they directly or indirectly — I am not accusing anyone of anything here — directed the attack on a Russian national,” Vladimir Yermakov, head of the Russian foreign ministry’s non-proliferation and arms control department, tells foreign diplomatic staff.

He also accuses the UK of “Russophobia.”

“Pull yourselves away a little bit from your Russophobia, your island mentality,” says Yermakov.

— AFP

Egypt’s Sissi urges big voter turnout, denies sidelining rivals

CAIRO — Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi urges Egyptians on Wednesday to vote in next week’s election to show they are in charge, a day after he denied any role in excluding his rivals.

The incumbent will run in the March 26-28 vote against a sole candidate whose half-hearted campaign poses no threat, after more heavyweight rivals were sidelined or detained.

“I need you because the journey is not over,” Sissi tells a mostly female audience in a speech. “I need every lady and mother and sister, please, I need the entire world to see us in the street” voting.

“Even if they vote ‘no.’ It’s still a big deal and a respectable thing which will be implemented… We should affirm to the world that this country is ruled by its people.”

The former army chief was first elected in 2014, a year after ousting his predecessor Mohamed Morsi following mass protests against the Islamist president.

— AFP

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi attending a military ceremony in Paris in October 2017. (AFP/Pool/Charles Platiau)

Liberman regrets allowing publication of Syria nuclear raid

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman says he regrets authorizing the military censor to allow attributing the 2007 strike on a Syrian nuclear reactor to Israel.

Speaking with Haaretz, Liberman blasts “the war of credits and wave of mutual slander” sparked by the publication on details of the raid, which he says “shames” the military operation.

“People simply broke through all the barricades and are simply letting information out, some of which could damage Israel’s security,” he says.

Netanyahu: Israel will stop its enemies from getting nukes

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses Israel’s bombing of a Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007 after Israeli confirmation of the strike.

“The government of Israel, the IDF and the Mossad prevented Syria from developing a nuclear capability. They are deserving of all praise for this,” Netanyahu, who was opposition leader at the time, says in a statement.

“The policy of Israel was and remains consistent: To prevent our enemies from acquiring nuclear weapons,” he adds.

Soldier-slapping teen to serve 8 months under plea deal

Ahed Tamimi, a 17-year-old Palestinian being held for slapping and shoving IDF soldiers, will serve eight months in prison under a plea deal with military prosecutors.

As part of the agreement, Tamimi will confess to four of the 12 charges against her, including incitement and assaulting a soldier.

The plea deal has yet to be approved by the military court.

News of the agreement was first reported by Channel 10.

Tamimi was arrested in December after footage of her hitting soldiers was shared widely. Her arrest and continued detainment has made her a cause célèbre among Palestinians and their supporters.

17-year-old Palestinian Ahed Tamimi (R), arrives for the beginning of her trial at the Ofer Military Court in the West Ban on February 13, 2018. (Thomas Coex/AFP)

WhatsApp co-founder says dump Facebook

The co-founder of WhatsApp, which was acquired by Facebook four years ago for $19 billion, has joined the movement to delete Facebook.

Brian Acton tweets: “It’s time. #deletefacebook.”

That hashtag is trending since reports surfaced in recent days regarding the improper use of personal information on Facebook by Cambridge Analytica, a political research firm used by the Trump campaign before the election.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has remained silent as nearly $50 billion in market capitalization of his company has been wiped out with investors fearing new oversight by government regulators.

— AP

Rebuffing criticism, Sissi challenger says campaign ‘very serious’

CAIRO — The little-known alternative candidate to Egypt’s president in next week’s election is insisting his campaign is serious, despite charges he entered the race at the last minute only to give it a veneer of legitimacy.

On the sidelines of a news conference in Cairo on Wednesday in which he describes his candidacy as a patriotic duty, Moussa Mustapha Moussa says a lack of funding and donations have held his campaign back compared to President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s.

Moussa says he doesn’t “have enough capabilities and supporters to give us free advertising, whereas president el-Sissi has that luxury” in the form of massive banners that dominate public thoroughfares in Egypt.

Critics say the March 26-28 vote is a virtual one-man referendum, after all serious competitors were arrested or intimidated into withdrawing.

— AP

Egyptian presidential candidate Moussa Mustafa Moussa, center, arrives to his campaign headquarters, in downtown in Cairo, Egypt, on March 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Rivlin praises political and security officials behind Syria nuclear raid

President Reuven Rivlin praises the political and defense officials responsible for the 2007 operation to destroy the Syrian nuclear reactor.

“Thank all of you who made the decision to strike down the nascent threat of a Syrian nuclear reactor, and those who carried out [the mission]. The people of Israel owe you a debt of honor, a debt of life,” Rivlin says, during a conference in memory of former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who died in 2016.

Dagan was the head of the spy agency during the 2007 operation.

— Judah Ari Gross

 

RJC denounces Holocaust denier who won GOP nomination for Illinois House seat

The Republican Jewish Coalition denounces Arthur Jones, a Holocaust denier who won the Republican nomination in an Illinois House district on Tuesday after running unopposed.

“Arthur Jones is a Nazi, not a Republican. It is a disgrace that he has won the Republican nomination” in the Chicago-area district, says RJC Chairman Norm Coleman in a statement Wednesday.

“Like the RNC and the Illinois GOP, the RJC has flat out rejected Arthur Jones. Jones does not represent Republican values, and he doesn’t deserve to have an ‘R’ after his name on the ballot. The GOP didn’t invite Jones into the party, the only mistake was not running a candidate in an uncompetitive, safe-Democrat district,” adds Coleman.

“There is no place for Nazis and white supremacists in the Republican Party.”

Boris Johnson: Putin will use World Cup like Hitler used 1936 Olympics

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson likens Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler, saying the Russian president will use this summer’s World Cup soccer tournament as the Nazi dictator used the 1936 Olympics.

“I think that your characterization of what is going to happen in Moscow, the World Cup, in all the venues — yes, I think the comparison with 1936 is certainly right. I think it’s an emetic prospect, frankly, to think of Putin glorying in this sporting event,” says Johnson in response to Labour MP Ian Austin, according to The Guardian.

He says the government has not decided whether to advise British nationals not to attend the World Cup.

Johnson was speaking with MPs regarding the recent poisoning in England of a former Russian double agent, which the UK and its allies have blamed on Moscow.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson arrives at Downing Street in London for the weekly cabinet meeting on March 20, 2018. (AFP Photo/Ben Stansall)

Report: Netanyahu, wife to be questioned Monday in Bezeq graft probe

Police are seeking another round of questioning of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara on Monday in the Bezeq graft probe, for the first time since a former adviser turned state’s witness in the high-profile corruption case, Hadashot TV news reports.

The Netanyahus’ eldest son Yair may also be questioned then, according to the report.

The prime minister and his wife were last questioned earlier this month in the Bezeq probe, known as Case 4000, which involves suspicions Netanyahu advanced legislation benefiting Bezeq owner Shaul Elovitch in exchange for flattering coverage from his Walla news site.

Days later, Nir Hefetz, a former media adviser to the Netanyahu family, turned state’s witness in the investigation. He became the third Netanyahu confidant to do so in cases involving the premier, joining former Communications Ministry director-general Shlomo Filber and former chief of staff Ari Harrow.

They were set to be questioned this week but the interrogation was reportedly pushed off due to the prime minister being unwell.

— Raoul Wootliff

Deal reached to evacuate gunmen from besieged Ghouta

BEIRUT — Syrian state media and a rebel spokesman say a deal has been reached to evacuate 7,500 gunmen and their families from a town in Eastern Ghouta to an opposition-held province in northern Syria.

The deal would be the first instance of fighters evacuating the rebel-held region east of Damascus which has been under a ferocious government air and ground assault for a month.

The state-run Addounia TV says 1,500 gunmen and 6,000 of their relatives would be evacuated Thursday from the town of Harasta in two batches to Idlib.

Monther Fares, a spokesman for the powerful Ahrar al-Sham group, says the deal gives security guarantees for those who decide to stay in the town after the government takes over.

— AP

Biden would ‘beat the hell’ out of Trump for disrespecting women

MIAMI — Former US vice President Joe Biden says he would “beat the hell” out of President Donald Trump if they were in high school together and Trump disrespected women.

The Democrat spoke Tuesday at an anti-sexual assault rally at the University of Miami.

“A guy who ended up becoming our national leader said, ‘I can grab a woman anywhere and she likes it,'” Biden says. “If we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.”

Biden says any guy who disrespected women was “usually the fattest, ugliest S.O.B. in the room.”

The school’s “It’s on Us” rally sought to change on-campus culture surrounding sexual assault.

— AP

Former US vice president Joe Biden speaks during a conference in Athens, June 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, File)

Intel minister: Syria nuclear raid ‘sharpens’ message to Iran

Intelligence Minister Israel Katz (Likud) says there is no fear of a Syrian reprisal following Israel’s confirmation of the raid on a nuclear reactor in Syria in 2007, while also warning Israel is prepared to take future action to prevent Iran from obtaining nukes.

“No. One should never say no, but Syria in its current state is not a state that can respond,” Katz tells Reshet TV.

“The fear of a Syrian retaliation then was far greater than today. Assad is fighting for survival, with Russian and Iranian backing. He has no interest in tussling with Israel…. The lessons have been learned,” he adds. “Assad knows full well about Israel’s [military] advantage, and the last thing he needs is a confrontation today over something that happened 11 years ago.”

Katz also says the strike sends a message to Iran.

Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, in his office in Tel Aviv, Israel, November 9, 2017. (AP/Dan Balilty)

“There’s also a message to Iran: There is the Begin doctrine which was introduced regarding Iraq,” says Katz, referring to the 1981 Israeli airstrikes on the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq. “The doctrine says that we will not allow anybody who threatens to destroy Israel to attain nuclear weapons.”

“If we reach the moment where Iran is certainly about to get nuclear weapons, the entire defense and intelligence establishment in Israel stands in favor of preventing it,” he adds.

Katz also says Israel hopes US President Donald Trump will change the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and prevent the Islamic Republic from obtaining nuclear weapons.

“The state of Israel makes clear, and I’m saying here in the clearest way, if it’s a case of a nuclear Iran or action, we will take action,” he says. “Israel won’t let Iran or any other state that threatens its existence to attain a nuclear capability.”

Katz says publishing information on the Syrian strike “sharpens that message.”

Body of missing Israeli man found in India

The Foreign Ministry says the body of an Israeli man missing in India since last week has been found.

It says the body of Ori Zinder, a 44-year-old resident of Ra’anana, was found in the city of Tiruvannamalai and that Israeli diplomats in India and Foreign Ministry officials had been working to locate him since he was reported missing.

The Foreign Ministry says Zinder’s family has been informed and that it is working to return his body to Israel for burial.

Barak slams Olmert amid finger-pointing over Syria nuclear raid

Ehud Barak slams fellow former prime minister Ehud Olmert amid the fallout between political and security officials over the 2007 Israeli raid on a Syrian nuclear reactor.

“Olmert was never really prime minister. He got there by chance. I’m sure that [ex-prime minister Ariel] Sharon would never have aimed to have him there. He played the role very well,” Barak tells Hadashot TV news.

Asked whether Olmert, nonetheless, had made the courageous and correct decision to approve the strike on Syria’s reactor, Barak said: “Kevin Spacey is also a good actor. He played the president exceptionally well [in House of Cards]. That didn’t make him president. [Olmert] made that good decision… and he ultimately deserves credit for that.”

Barak asserts that Olmert’s upcoming book proves he wasn’t fit to be premier.

“To think that the person who wrote that book… was the prime minister of Israel, and took fateful decisions is disturbing, to put it mildly,” Barak says.

Ehud Olmert (L) and Ehud Barak visit an IDF base in southern Israel. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/Flash90)

Woman slaps military prosecutor at trial of soldier-slapping teen

An Israeli supporter of a Palestinian teenager charged with slapping an Israeli soldier is arrested for slapping a military prosecutor.

The woman slaps the prosecutor at the Ofer Military Court, where Ahed Tamimi is on trial, a police spokesman says.

The spokesman says officers were called to the hearing and arrested the woman for questioning.

Tamimi has been held in custody since December, when she was filmed slapping and hitting two soldiers in her West Bank village.

Kushner, Greenblatt meet with Saudi crown prince to talk Trump peace plan

Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, the Trump administration’s point men for Middle East peace, met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Washington Tuesday to discuss the US plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace, the official Saudi Press Agency says.

“They discussed issues of common interests between the two countries and ways of consolidating them in addition to the latest peace process developments in the Middle East, which represent great importance for the two countries, and the necessity of finding a peaceful and lasting solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” the news agency reports.

Notably, a readout of the meeting from the White House Wednesday made no mention of the Trump administration’s peace plan.

Khamenei claims Iran has foiled US plans in Mideast

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claims Tehran has neutralized US plans in the Middle East, in a speech Wednesday marking the Persian New Year.

“Those who interfere in all the affairs of the world protest and ask: ‘Why does Iran intervene in the affairs of Iraq and Syria?’ What is it to you? The Islamic Republic of Iran has succeeded in neutralizing US plans in the region,” he says.

Khamenei accuses the United States of planning to “create oppressive and rebel groups like Daesh (the Islamic State group) to distract people in the region from the Zionist regime (Israel) and keep them occupied with internal conflicts.”

In this photo from May 2, 2016, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addresses a group of teachers in Tehran, Iran. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP, File)

The all-powerful Iranian leader’s speech is delivered in the holy city of Masshad and broadcast on state television.

Iran has supported the governments of Syria and Iraq by sending “military advisers” and its own “volunteers” along with Afghans and Pakistanis to fight jihadists and rebels.

Its presence in the region has been denounced by the United States as well as France, Britain, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Khamenei says Iran was there “at the request of the governments and people” of those countries.

“Without a doubt, the United States will not reach its goals in the region and, thank God, we will achieve ours,” he adds.

— AFP

Soldier-slapping teen slapped with 8-month prison sentence

A Palestinian teenager is convicted for slapping and shoving Israeli soldiers as part of plea deal reached with military prosecutors, the army says.

Under the plea agreement, Ahed Tamimi will serve eight months in prison and pay a NIS 5,000 fine, while admitting to assaulting the soldiers in the December incident, as well as three other charges.

Tamimi’s mother, Narimam Tamimi, will also serve eight months in prison and be fined NIS 6,000 under the plea deal for her role in the incident, which was filmed and shared widely.

Nour Tamimi, Ahed’s cousin, is sentenced to prison but will not be incarcerated because of time served. She is fined NIS 2,000.

“The security forces and the IDF will continue to work to maintain security and public order in the areas of Judea and Samaria, and to enforce the law against those who harm IDF soldiers and incite violence,” the army says.

Hamas names suspect in bomb attack on PA premier

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Hamas on Wednesday names a fugitive suspect in a bomb attack on Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, two days after the Islamist terror group itself was accused of the Gaza attack.

Hamdallah was unhurt by the roadside blast that struck his convoy on March 13, in what Palestinian officials have called an assassination attempt as he entered the Hamas-run strip on a rare visit.

The interior ministry in Gaza on Wednesday says it was searching for Anas abu Koussa, born in 1993, describing him as the lead suspect.

It doesn’t give a possible motive for the attack on Hamdallah, head of government in President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority.

A Hamas security source says investigators had arrested and were questioning three people, including two members of the PA-run intelligence services.

Another security source says he believed radical Salafist Muslims had planted the bomb, which lightly injured six people.

Hamas and the West Bank-based PA have been bitter rivals for a decade since the terror group seized control of Gaza.

— AFP

Hamas personnel inspect the site of an explosion that occurred as the convoy of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah entered Gaza through the Erez crossing with Israel, on the main road in Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip, on March 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
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