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Israeli lawmakers welcome Trump’s Golan recognition as ‘historic, brave’

Center and right-wing politicians hail dramatic US announcement, but Union of Right-Wing Parties warns it shouldn’t ‘blind’ Israel in run-up to peace plan rollout

US Senator Lindsey Graham, left, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, right, on a tour of the Golan Heights, March 11, 2019. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
US Senator Lindsey Graham, left, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, right, on a tour of the Golan Heights, March 11, 2019. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events at they unfolded.

Court releases key witness in submarine case who recanted testimony

The Lod Magistrate’s Court accepts an appeal by Miki Ganor, the state’s key witness in the high-profile submarine corruption case, and orders his release.

Judge Nava Bechor orders Ganor released to house arrest until Sunday. He is barred from speaking to anyone involved in the Case 3000 investigation, and has been barred from leaving the country for the next four months.

“I don’t believe exceptional circumstances have arisen that justify to keep him in detention,” Bechor writes in her decision according to reports in Hebrew-language media. “This is an appropriate alternative to detention, and will dispel concerns of obstruction in the investigation.”

Ganor will not be released until tomorrow so that police have an opportunity to appeal the decision.

State prosecutor tells Ganor plea deal may be nixed for recanting testimony

The state prosecutor informs ex-navy official Miki Ganor the plea agreement struck last year in the submarines corruption investigation could be rescinded after the key witness abruptly recanted his testimony in the high-profile case.

A statement from the Justice Ministry says that Ganor’s amended testimony to police “contradicts his detailed testimony given as state’s evidence” and therefore violates the terms of the partial immunity.

Ganor’s lawyers have until Wednesday to submit an explanation for their client’s sudden change of heart.

Israel shuts French cultural center in Jerusalem

Israeli authorities shutter down a French cultural center in Jerusalem, alleging it was to host an event involving an association supported by the Palestinian Authority.

In a rare move, police entered the center in East Jerusalem and ordered it closed until further notice, a French diplomatic source says.

An order posted on the door of the building says that the center, which is connected to the French foreign ministry, intended to host an event organised with a women’s association “sponsored or financed by the Palestinian Authority” and “without authorization.”

Israel considers all Palestinian Authority activities in Jerusalem illegal.

The consulate could not confirm if the association was indeed financed by the PA, but Palestinians who were to participate in the event say the allegation is false.

One of the women who was to participate said the scheduled event was a Mother’s Day bazaar selling handmade crafts.


Police probe attacks on 5 mosques in central England

Counter-terrorism officers in central England are investigating attacks on five mosques in which windows were apparently shattered by a sledgehammer.

The attacks in Birmingham are being treated as linked. No motive has been established.

The incidents in Birmingham come just days after an attacker killed 50 worshipers in two mosques in New Zealand. The attack last week prompted many leaders in the UK to reach out to Muslims and offer support and reassurance.

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid says that the Birmingham attacks are “deeply concerning.”

In a tweet, Javid stresses that “hateful behavior has absolutely no place in our society & will never be accepted.”

Birmingham City Council cabinet member Waseem Zaffar writes on Twitter that the community “will fight back against any hate and division with love, peace and harmony.”

— AP

US-backed forces press offensive against IS Syria enclave

US-backed forces are pressing an offensive against the Islamic State group in its last redoubt in Syria, denying reports the jihadist enclave had fallen.

“Mopping up operations continue in Baghouz camp,” the command of the Syrian Democratic Forces says in a brief statement.

The SDF, which launched a final assault against the village of Baghouz in eastern Syria on February 9, denied reports that the IS enclave had completely fallen to its forces.


Heavy smoke rises above the Islamic State (IS) group’s last remaining position in the village of Baghouz during battles with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in the countryside of the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor on March 18, 2019. (Delil SOULEIMAN / AFP)

London museum rejects donation from Sackler family over opioid crisis

The National Portrait Gallery in London says it will not accept a donation of $1.3 million from the Sackler family, which owns Purdue Pharma, the company that makes the opioid OxyContin.

Members of the family are facing a series of lawsuits accusing them of profiting off of the opioid addiction crisis, according to CNN. A 2017 article in the New Yorker detailed a variety of misleading and aggressive marketing practices the company employed to encourage the use of OxyContin, including misleading statements about the drug’s addictiveness.

The decision on the donation has been reached mutually between the National Portrait Gallery and the Sackler Trust, according to CNN.

“The giving philosophy of the family has always been to actively support institutions while never getting in the way of their mission,” a spokesperson for the Sackler Trust says in a statement, according to CNN. “It has become evident that recent reporting of allegations made against Sackler family members may cause this new donation to deflect the National Portrait Gallery from its important work.”

The statement also “vigorously denied” the allegations.

The Sackler family has donated to a wide range of causes in the United States and Israel, including the Sackler Faculty of Medicine, a medical school at Tel Aviv University.


Ferry sinks in Tigris river near Iraq’s Mosul, killing 40

An Iraqi official says a ferry overloaded with people celebrating the Kurdish new year sank in the Tigris river near Mosul, killing at least 40 people.

Col. Hussam Khalil, head of the Civil Defense in the Nineveh province, tells The Associated Press that the accident occurred today as scores of people were out in the tourist area celebrating Nowruz, which marks the Kurdish new year and the arrival of spring.

Khalil says many of the dead were women and children, adding that search operations are still underway.

— AP

At least 12 killed in Egypt chemical plant blast on Red Sea coast

At least 12 people are killed after a gas tank explodes at an Egyptian fertilizer factory on the Red Sea coast, according to a security source.

No final numbers of the casualties in Ain Sokhna have been officially confirmed, but medical sources tell AFP 10 bodies have been received at a nearby morgue following an incident. Egypt’s official news agency MENA says a total of 15 have been killed and wounded.


Balloon-borne improvised bomb from Gaza explodes in Israel, causing no injuries

An improvised explosive device attached to balloons explodes in Israel after being launched from Gaza.

A rubber tube containing the bomb detaches from the balloons in the Sha’ar Hanegev region and detonations on the ground, without causing injuries.

A sapper is called in and disposes of the incendiary device.

Pompeo kicks off historic Western Wall visit alongside Netanyahu, Friedman

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo kicks off his visit to the Western Wall alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

The visit marks the first time that Washington’s top diplomat visits Jerusalem’s contested Old City accompanied by a senior Israeli official, in what could be seen as a tacit recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Jewish holy site.

Pompeo and Netanyahu are due to tour the Wall and the adjacent tunnels, which are located underneath the Old City’s Muslim Quarter. At a visitors center, the two men are expected to view a virtual reality recreation of the Jewish temple that once stood on the Temple Mount.

Death toll in Iraq ferry accident rises to 54; 28 missing

At least 54 people have died after an overcrowded ferry carrying families sank in the Tigris river in northern Iraq during Kurdish New Year celebrations, officials say.

Another 28 people are missing after the disaster in the city of Mosul, according to an interior ministry official who did not want to be named.

“The boat sank because there were too many passengers on board, more than a hundred,” another security official based in Mosul tells AFP.

The vessel was packed with men, women and children crossing the Tigris to go to a popular picnic area, he says.

The authorities had warned people to be careful after several days of heavy rains led to water being released through the Mosul dam, causing the river level to rise.


Arrest order issued for Brazilian ex-president Michel Temer

A judge in Rio de Janeiro has issued an arrest warrant for ex-president Michel Temer, who is being investigated in several corruption cases.

Brazilian acting President Michel Temer is seen during the first ministers meeting at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, on May 13, 2016. (EVARISTO SA / AFP)

A spokeswoman for the Prosecutors Office in Rio de Janeiro tells The Associated Press that Judge Marcelo Breitas issued the order. Per agency protocol, the spokeswoman asked her name not be used.

Breitas is a Rio judge overseeing part of a sprawling corruption probe involving kickbacks to politicians and public officials. Since launching in March 2014, the so-called Car Wash investigation has led to the jailing of top businessmen and politicians, including ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Temer lives in Sao Paulo, but his whereabouts were not immediately known.

— AP

Gantz, Lapid present plans for economy, accuse PM of putting himself before Israelis

Blue and White leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid hold a press conference to present the party’s socioeconomic policy plan, saying they plan to make “big changes, not big announcements.”

Gantz slams the government’s policy on transportation, and healthcare, saying the situation was bad in both. He says his plans can add NIS 12-13 billion (about $3.5 billion) to the national budget.

Gantz says the education system has been “neglected” and that the state needs to invest in kids “no matter where they live, who their parents are, where they come from.” He calls for free daycare centers in all parts of the country, which he says would “save an estimated billion shekels every year” since parents will be able to work more.

Lapid says: “I heard Netanyahu saying yesterday the economy is in a great state. For whom? Where did he meet these people for whom the financial situation is great? Israeli citizens go to the supermarket and cannot believe how quickly their salary is gone.”

“The cost of living in Israel is a national calamity. Israel is expensive because the government systems aren’t working,” he adds, saying the prime minister is “busy dealing with himself” at the expense of Israelis.

US Embassy publishes photos from Pompeo’s Western Wall visit

The US Embassy in Israel publishes photos from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

State seeks to appeal to Supreme Court against Miki Ganor’s release

State prosecutors have requested an approval to appeal to the Supreme Court against the decision to release Miki Ganor, a key official in the submarine probe, to house arrest.

The Lod Magistrate’s Court earlier today accepted an appeal by Ganor, the state’s key witness in the high-profile submarine corruption case who was arrested this week after asking to retract and change his testimony, and ordered his release.

Judge rebukes Likud for failing to remove propaganda from PM’s residence

The head of the Central Elections Committee says an order issued yesterday to refrain from putting up election propaganda material inside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem “hasn’t been respected.”

Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer gives the Likud party until Sunday noon to explain the “diversion from the decision.”

He also stresses that no campaign banners are allowed this evening at Netanyahu’s scheduled press conference with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem.

Pompeo denies Trump administration working for Netanyahu’s re-election

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rejects accusations that the Trump administration is taking action to benefit Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the upcoming Knesset election, in an interview with Israeli TV.

The allegations come as Pompeo visits the Western Wall alongside Netanyahu — a first for a US secretary of state — and before Netanyahu visits Washington to meet US President Donald Trump. It also comes following a rumored American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Asked on Channel 12 news about claims by Netanyahu’s critics that the US is intervening in the elections to ensure his re-election, Pompeo says: “My visit and Netanyahu’s visit to Washington next week are about really pressing issues, things that matter to the world. They are time sensitive.

“Whether it’s the challenges presented by the Islamic Republic of Iran, or the issues in Syria, these are issues that can’t wait, and they don’t walk on election clocks.”

Pompeo says Israel’s ties with China endanger security cooperation with US

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says in an interview to Israel’s Channel 13 that Jerusalem must limit its ties with China, or else its security and intelligence relations with the US will suffer.

Meanwhile, speaking to reporters, Pompeo refuses to gives details about Washington’s reported plans to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and hails his visit to the Western Wall alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “symbolic.”

Trump says it’s time for US to ‘fully recognize’ Israeli rule over Golan Heights

US President Donald Trump says it is time for his country to “fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” after reports that Washington is poised to make the dramatic declaration.

Jason Greenblatt hails Trump’s Golan recognition as ‘bold and courageous’

US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt hails US President Donald Trump’s announcement that Washington should recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights as a “bold, courageous, and historic decision.”

Netanyahu thanks Trump for Golan recognition

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanks US President Donald Trump for recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Israeli politicians praise Trump’s Golan Heights recognition

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein praises the US for announcing it was time to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

“38 years after the Knesset legislated the law to extend Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, and after great efforts in the international arena, it is time for an American recognition,” he says.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon says it is an “important achievement for the State of Israel.”

Other Israeli politicians also hail Donald Trump’s move.

Union of Right-Wing Parties says US Golan recognition shouldn’t ‘blind’ Israel

As Israeli politicians pile praise on the US for recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the Union of Right-Wing Parties welcomes the move but warns that it “cannot blind us in the run-up to the unveiling of Trump’s ‘deal of the century.'”

The alliance of right-wing and far-right parties says that despite the US announcement, it will still oppose any West Bank withdrawal or settlement evacuations as part of the peace plan, which is expected to be rolled out after the Knesset elections in April.

Top Palestinian official says US Golan recognition will stoke ‘bloodshed’

Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat slams US President Donald Trump’s announcement that the US will recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, saying the move will stoke “certain destabilization and bloodshed in our region.”

Massachusetts police say twice as many Jewish gravestones defaced than first thought

Police now say 59 gravestones at a Jewish cemetery in Massachusetts were defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti earlier this week, about twice as many as initially thought.

Entrance to Hebrew Cemetery on McMahon Street in Fall River, Massachusetts. (Google Screenshot)

Fall River police say in a Facebook post that they came up with the higher number after a row-by-row inspection of Hebrew Cemetery. Of those 59, two were knocked over.

The stones were defaced with swastikas and phrases including “Expel the Jew” and “Hitler was right” in what appeared to be black marker.

Police were alerted on Sunday by a cemetery maintenance worker.

Police are treating it as a hate crime.

No arrests have been made. The Herald News reports that rewards totaling $12,500 are being offered for information that leads to an arrest, including $10,000 given anonymously to Congregation Adas Israel, a city synagogue.

— AP

‘You made history,’ Netanyahu tells Trump in phone call after Golan recognition

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office says he has spoken on the phone with US President Donald Trump and thanked him for his decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

“You made history,” Netanyahu told Trump, according to the statement.

In press conference with Pompeo, PM calls Golan recognition ‘a Purim miracle’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, where he focuses on US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

“I’m so excited,” Netanyahu says in English. “This is the eve of Purim and we have a miracle of Purim. President Trump has just made history, I called him, I thanked him on behalf of the Israeli public. He’s done it again. First he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, then he pulled out of the disastrous nuclear deal with Iran, and now he has perhaps made the most important decision.”

“The message he has given the world is that America stands with Israel,” he adds. “We are deeply grateful for the great support and the unmatchable support for the security of the State of Israel. There is no greater friendship than that between the United States and Israel. This evening I want to say just one word: Thank you.”

Pompeo says his trip to Israel was a “great visit,” calling his visit to the Jerusalem Old City and the Western Wall “inspiring and moving.”

Referring to the Golan recognition, Pompeo says: “Trump made a bold and important decision and it will make history. It shows that the soldiers Israel lost in battle there have been worthy and meaningful and important.”

PM said to make 700% profit on shares bought from his cousin in suspected new graft case

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a 700% profit in three years from shares he purchased in 2007 from his cousin, US businessman Nathan Milikowsky, in a new suspected corruption case related to the submarine affair, Channel 12 news reports.

The TV report says Netanyahu bought shares in the graphite electrodes company Seadrift for just $600,000. In November 2010, the prime minister sold his shares back to Milikowsky for $4.3 million — more than seven times his investment.

State prosecutors are reportedly considering opening a criminal probe into the case, to check whether the share purchase and extremely profitable sale could constitute an illicit gift by Milikowsky to Netanyahu.

3 injured in firebomb attack in the West Bank

Three Israelis have been lightly injured after a Molotov cocktail was thrown at their vehicle between the northern West Bank settlements of Itamar and Elon Moreh, a spokeswoman for the Samaria Regional Council says.

Russian diplomats criticize US Golan recognition — report

Russia reportedly oppose US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

“We oppose any change in the status of the Golan Heights,” unnamed Russian diplomats are quoted as saying by the Kan public broadcaster. “Any such change should be made in a very different manner, not in a tweet but as a decision by the UN Security Council.”

New Right says Golan recognition can’t enable Palestinian state

After its leaders initially praised the US move to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, the New Right party releases a new statement warning the move could be a preparation for establishing a Palestinian state as part of the Trump administration’s peace plan.

“With all the joy of American recognition of the Golan Heights, it is essential to say: The ‘Golan in exchange for Hamastan’ deal is a danger to Jewish settlements and to Israel,” the party says in a statement, referring to Palestinian terror group Hamas.

“We call upon Prime Minister Netanyahu as soon as this evening, to announce that his agreement to the establishment of Palestine in the Bar-Ilan speech is null and void,” it adds.

IDF tank strikes Hamas post in response to ‘irregular’ violent Gaza border riots

An Israel Defense Forces tank strikes a Hamas military post in the southern Gaza Strip in response to “irregular” violent rioting by Palestinians along the border fence.

The rioting included the launching of incendiary balloons and explosive devices into Israel throughout the day, the army says.

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