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Palestinian terror groups deny firing rocket at southern Israel

Projectile shatters tense calm; additional troops deployed along Gaza frontier; official says fighting could soon resume

A ball of fire lights the sky above a building believed to house the offices of Hamas chairmain Ismail Haniyeh, during Israeli strikes on Gaza City hours after a rocket from the Palestinian enclave hit a house and wounded seven Israelis on March 25, 2019. (Mahmud Hams / AFP)
A ball of fire lights the sky above a building believed to house the offices of Hamas chairmain Ismail Haniyeh, during Israeli strikes on Gaza City hours after a rocket from the Palestinian enclave hit a house and wounded seven Israelis on March 25, 2019. (Mahmud Hams / AFP)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s developments as they unfolded.

Netanyahu pitches plan to Trump to boot Iranians from Syria

A senior Israeli official says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has presented US President Donald Trump with a plan to solve the Syrian crisis.

The plan has previously been presented to President Vladimir Putin of Russia, who has shown interest in the plan, the official says.

This plan would see Iran removed from Syria, the official says, refusing to elaborate.

The official raises the possibility of a trilateral approach to solving the Syrian crisis, between the US, Russia and Israel.

Raphael Ahren

Trump: Media is ‘enemy of the people’

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday brands the mainstream media the “enemy” and the “opposition party” after the Mueller report cleared him of collusion, accusing journalists of covering the Russia probe unfairly.

“The Mainstream Media is under fire and being scorned all over the World as being corrupt and FAKE. For two years they pushed the Russian Collusion Delusion when they always knew there was No Collusion,” Trump tweets.

“They truly are the Enemy of the People and the Real Opposition Party!”

Trump has previously used “enemy of the people” — echoing a Stalinist phrase used to describe political enemies — to describe the media, which he has always said does not give him accurate coverage.

This time, Trump is referring to the two-year probe led by special prosecutor Robert Mueller into Trump’s opaque links with Russia and suspicions that his 2016 presidential campaign colluded with Russian agents in attempts to influence the election in his favor.


Syrians demonstrate against Trump’s recognition of Golan

Syria’s state news agency says thousands of Syrians have gathered in the streets of various cities to protest US President Donald Trump’s formal recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

SANA posts photographs of a march in the southern city of Sweida this morning, in which men and women carry Syrian and Palestinian flags and banners reading “Golan is Syrian.”

SANA says another protest took place in the southern city of Daraa.

Trump formally signed the proclamation alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, reversing more than a half-century of US policy in the Middle East.

The US is the first country to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan, which the rest of the international community regards as Israeli-occupied.


Netanyahu to address AIPAC via satellite

After canceling his speech at the AIPAC Policy Conference due to violence in Israel’s south, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address the confab via satellite from Israel.

The speech is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Israel time.

German prosecutors confirm probe of submarine sales to Israel

German prosecutors confirm Tuesday they are investigating the 2017 sale of three submarines to Israel, a potential corruption scandal implicating allies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“An evaluation of the (international) press coverage has given cause for a preliminary investigation,” a spokesman for Bochum’s prosecutors office, which specializes in financial corruption cases, tells AFP without giving more details.

On Monday, business newspaper Handelsblatt reported that German authorities are investigating the large military contract concerning the sale of German-built submarines, at the request of authorities in Israel who have been investigating the matter since 2016.

The case, known as “3000,” focuses on suspicion of corruption surrounding the sale of three Dolphin class submarines and four Saar 6 naval vessels, built by German industrial giant Thyssenkrupp, for a reported sum of around two billion dollars.


Pelosi to AIPAC: Support for Israel is ‘relentlessly bipartisan’

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tells AIPAC that American support for the Jewish state is “relentlessly bipartisan.”

The Democrat from California says politicians from both sides of the aisle are at the confab because “support for Israel in America is bipartisan… relentlessly bipartisan.”

In remarks aimed at Omar, Pelosi says dual loyalty charge is anti-Semitism

Pelosi says support for Israel in Congress “remains ironclad and bipartisan” and assistance to Israel’s security will not end.

“Assistance to Israel is vital and it is not going anywhere, because if you care about American security, you must care about Israel’s security,” she says, to applause.

“It is imperative that Israel retain its qualitative edge and America must ensure that it always does.”

Pelosi says Israel’s founding is “one of the greatest political achievements of the 20th century.”

“Israel and America are connected now and forever. We will never allow anyone to make Israel a wedge issue,” says Pelosi.

She condemns the rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza,  reaffirms Israel’s right to self defense in the north and calls for a peace deal with the Palestinians.

Pelosi indirectly addresses the controversial House resolution condemning various forms of hatred that was sparked by widely condemned suggestions by freshman Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar. Omar instigated a firestorm when she accused AIPAC of paying politicians to be pro-Israel. She later apologized for those remarks but ignited a new controversy weeks later when she said that pro-Israel activists were pushing for lawmakers to have “allegiance” to Israel, which critics said amounted to accusing Jews of having “dual loyalty.”

The canard of dual loyalty is “anti-Semitic,” declares Pelosi, without naming Omar.

“I simply declare that to be anti-Semitic is to be anti-American. It has no place in our country,” she says to applause.

Pelosi also condemns the Israel boycott movement and calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. But a peace deal, adds Pelosi, must ensure “security, security, security” for Israel.

US ambassador lauds ‘courageous’ Trump for Golan, Jerusalem moves

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman is up next.

“I bring you greetings from my boss, my friend, and Israel’s greatest ally ever to reside in the White House, President Donald Trump,” he says, to sustained applause.

Friedman says he wants to start on “an outrageous, sad, and ultimately a very important note,” referring to the rocket attack on central

That rocket was not aimed at Orthodox Jews or Reform Jews, progressives or conservatives, Ashkenazi or Separdic Jews, says Friedman.

“That rocket was designed just to kill Jews. We can learn much from that rocket. It cared not a whit about the differences among Jews,” he says.

“Let’s put our differences aside in favor of our common goals, now and always,” says Friedman.

The ambassador addresses the US embassy move to Jerusalem, saying the mission is growing considerably.

“Some say this is just a symbolic gesture, but I could not disagree more,” says Friedman, describing it as the culmination of a 2,000-year-old Jewish dream of the return to Zion.

Quoting Netanyahu, Friedman describes the recognition of the Golan Heights as the “Purim miracle.”

“For two generations, Israelis of all political stripes proclaimed: ‘the nation is with the Golan,’ which can never be severed from the State of Israel,” he says.

Pointing to the strategic nature of the territory and the threat posed by Syria, Friedman says “this will never happen on President Trump’s watch.”

“President Trump stood, yet again, courageously and resolutely with the people of Israel.”

If you don’t see the significance of these moves, “you may want to check your pulse,” says Friedman, to cheers.

Friedman also praises Trump for exiting the “flawed Iran deal.”

Friedman: Those who thought Iran would reform have been proven ‘dead wrong’

Friedman says “in hindsight, we can prove with absolute certainty” that those who supported the Iran deal and thought it would change the regime “were 100 percent dead wrong.”

“What did Iran do with all its newly found treasure?” continued Friedman, noting its stepped-up support for military and terrorist activities.

“The sanctions are working,” he continues. “We are beginning to see their crippling effect on the Iranian regime. I shudder to think where we would be without President Trump’s courageous actions.”

Friedman: We must seek peace, future US leaders won’t understand Israel’s fears

“People tell me, don’t touch this issue,” he says of the Palestinian conflict.

But Friedman says he can’t leave the issue to a future administration that won’t recognize “the existential risk to Israel if Judea and Samaria are overcome by terrorists in the manner” that happened in the Gaza Strip after the 2005 withdrawal.

A future government won’t understand that “in the Middle East, peace comes through strength, not just through words on a paper.”

He says he can’t leave it to a future administration that is “potentially willing to penalize Israel for having the audacity to survive in a dangerous neighborhood” of the Middle East.

“We will continue to work with the Israeli government, with the Palestinians, with other regional players” to pursue peace, he says, acknowledging there will be “some turbulence along the way.”

“Work with us, stay with us, pray with us for peace in the holy land,” he says of Israel’s supporters.

Netanyahu to AIPAC: Israel will always be a democracy — and the Jewish state

In a satellite message to the AIPAC conference in Washington, Netanyahu says support for Israel comes from “Democrats and Republicans alike. That is how it has always been and that’s how it should always be.”

Yesterday, “President Trump again made history,” with the recognition of Israeli sovereignty of the Golan Heights, Netanyahu says.

“Now that deserves enormous applause,” says Netanyahu.

“Israel holds the high ground and we shall never, ever give it up,” says the prime minister of the strategic territory, captured from Syria in 1967.

He thanks Trump “for all the historic decisions you have made.”

Netanyahu recalls his 2015 US Congress speech against the Iran deal. Trump walked away from deal, restored sanctions against the “genocidal” regime, recognized Jerusalem, and moved the embassy there, says Netanyahu.

Addressing fears of a growing divide, Netanyahu says those who want to tear the US and Israel apart “will fail.”

“We must never take anything for granted. Those who seek to defame this great organization, AIPAC … they must be confronted,” says Netanyahu, apparently referring to US Congresswoman Ilan Omar.

Despite what they claim, they don’t just criticize Israeli policies, says Netanyahu, muttering, “God I’m used to that.”

Instead, these critics “spew venom” against Jewish people and accuse Jews of being too disloyal and too influential, he says.

The best way to respond is “to stand up to them,” adds Netanyahu.

“So I have a message to all the anti-Semites out there,” he says, naming Iranians, Hezbollah, unnamed British and American politicians, the Charlottesville neo-Nazis and the Pittsburgh shooters among them.

“The Jewish people do not bow down. We stand, we fight and we win.”

Netanyahu also addresses recent criticism of both his rhetoric toward Israel’s Arabs and the Jewish state law, which passed in July.

In Israel, “no one, no one is a second class citizen. All of Israel’s citizens are first class citizens,” says Netanyahu,

“Israel will always be a democracy, just as Israel will always be a Jewish state. Israel is the home of all Jews,” says the prime minister.

Netanyahu says Israel ready to do ‘a lot more’ on Gaza

Netanyahu warns Tuesday that he is ready to order further action in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip after airstrikes in response to rocket fire.

“I can tell you we are prepared to do a lot more. We will do what is necessary to defend our people and to defend our state,” Netanyahu tells the US pro-Israel lobby AIPAC by video link after cutting short a trip to Washington to handle the crisis.


After AIPAC speech, Netanyahu huddles again with security brass

Netanyahu, who is also defense minister, has resumed security consultations with the IDF chief of staff, Shin Bet security agency chief, and other senior defense officials on Gaza, following his video address to AIPAC, his office says.

UN Mideast envoy urges Security Council to condemn Hamas rocket fire

The UN Mideast envoy is urging the Security Council to condemn the indiscriminate firing of rockets by Gaza’s Hamas rulers toward Israel, saying this dramatically increases the risk of escalation and a new conflict.

Nikolay Mladenov tells the council that since 6 a.m. local time (0400 GMT) on Tuesday, “a fragile calm seems to have taken hold.” He urges all sides “to exercise maximum restraint as the situation remains very tense.”

In the past 10 days, Mladenov said, there have been two rocket attacks from Gaza targeting the Tel Aviv area, “which represents a very serious escalation.”

A rocket launched Monday from Gaza hit a house in central Israel, wounding seven people and sparking the latest escalation.

Over the following 24 hours, Mladenov says, at least 103 rockets and mortars were fired from Gaza toward Israel, one damaging a house in Sderot. He says Israel conducted 42 airstrikes on various locations in Gaza and fired 16 shells toward Gaza, wounding seven Palestinians, according to local sources, and destroying several buildings including Hamas offices and security buildings.


Argentina’s chief rabbi makes first public appearance since attack

One month after being brutally attacked in his home, Argentina’s chief rabbi appears in public in a meeting with the head of the Jewish Agency.

Rabbi Gabriel Davidovich receives Isaac Herzog at his Buenos Aires home and offered thanks to Jews around the world who expressed concern and offered prayers for him following the attack.

“It has really strengthened us a lot,” Davidovich says. “Health comes from everyone who called, who prayed… we will be fine.”

Herzog, making an official visit to South America, replies that “the phrase ‘All Israel is responsible for each other’ is not just a statement but an act, so I would like to wish you and your family a Happy Passover, with less pain, less worry and more love of Israel.”

Herzog tweets in Hebrew, Spanish and English that the rabbi is “recovering and was very moved by the outpouring of love from Jewish communities around the world.”


Citing Netanyahu criminal probes, Ilhan Omar brushes off PM’s criticism

Congresswoman Ilan Omar dismisses criticism by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, citing the criminal investigations into the Israeli leader.

Addressing AIPAC’s annual Policy Conference in Washington, Netanyahu did not mention Minnesota Congresswoman Omar by name, but was clearly referring to her recent criticism of the pro-Israel lobby when he said that it “not about the Benjamins.”

In February, the freshman lawmaker had tweeted that “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” in reference to AIPAC’s allegedly vast influence on American politics.

Benjamins are a slang term for $100 bills, which feature US founding father Benjamin Franklin.

“This from a man facing indictments for bribery and other crimes in three separate public corruption affairs. Next!” tweets Omar.

Hezbollah chief: After Golan, Trump could recognize Israel’s control of West Bank

The leader of the Hezbollah terrorist group condemns US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, predicting that a US shift on the West Bank could follow.

“After a period of time, we must expect that Trump will come out and say he recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank,” says Hassan Nasrallah.

He says the American recognition of Jerusalem in December 2017 paved the way for the Monday recognition of the strategic plateau.

“When the world allowed Trump to usurp Jerusalem and declare it as Israel’s eternal capital, it opened the door to every violation by the Americans and Trump,” he says, according to Naharnet.

The Golan recognition was a sign of “disrespect” to the Arab world, he continues.

“This is a pivotal event in the Arab-Israeli conflict,” he says.

The leader of the terrorist group says the territory will only be returned to Syria by force, in a call for armed struggle.

“Those who are still hesitant must become convinced that resistance is the only choice for the Syrians to recover the Golan, for the Lebanese to recover the Shebaa Farms and the Kfarshouba Hills, and for the Palestinians to get their rights.”

He also addresses US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s tough rhetoric on Hezbollah.

“Pompeo mentioned Hezbollah 18 times within minutes during his address,” he says. “It pleases us that the US administration is angry at us to this extent.”

Gazans enter Israel, torch IDF post and slip back into Strip — IDF

Several Palestinians crossed into Israel from the southern Gaza Strip, set fire to part of an unmanned IDF post near the border before escaping back into the coastal enclave, the army says.

There are no reports of injuries.

US hits Iran Revolutionary Guard finance network with sanctions

The US Treasury takes fresh aim Tuesday at the international network funneling dollars and euros to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), naming 25 individuals and entities for financial sanctions.

The targets are front companies of the IRGC-controlled Ansar Bank and Ansar Exchange in Iran, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, that have collectively been able to move more than $1 billion for the Tehran regime, the Treasury says.

The funds have benefited both IRGC and the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, according to a Treasury announcement.

The sanctions seek to lock those named out of the global financial system by banning US citizens and US businesses — including international banks with a US presence — from doing business with them.

“Any foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates a significant transactions for any of the individuals or entities designated today could be subject to US sanctions,” the Treasury warns.

The 25 named are mostly relatively small trading and money exchange firms, dubbed by the Treasury “front companies,” and their owners and managers who worked with Ansar Bank and Ansar Exchange.

In addition key figures in Ansar Bank and Ansar Exchange are designated for sanctions.


Ultra-Orthodox MK berates Gantz for Western Wall comments

United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni raps Blue and White leader Benny Gantz for telling the AIPAC conference on Monday that the Western Wall is “long enough for everyone,” namely for Jews of all denominations.

“I heard you say the Western Wall is big enough for everyone. I don’t give you advice on matters you dealt with as IDF chief of staff,” says Gafni in a video.

“I have a request: Don’t give us advice about what is happening at the Western Wall, about its size or its sanctity, about who should enter and who shouldn’t. I have a request: Don’t talk about things you don’t understand. Because your comments are causing you great harm.”

The Western Wall is unlike the Blue and White party amalgam of politicians of different views, mocks Gafni.

“For thousands of years, we Jews have been praying in this direction,” he continues. “Don’t get involved. You don’t understand it.”

European envoys at UN says Golan is not Israeli territory

Five European countries that sit on the UN Security Council on Tuesday reject US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize the Golan as Israeli territory and voice concern the move could have broad consequences.

Belgium, Britain, France, Germany and Poland insist that the European position has not changed and that the Golan remained Israeli-occupied Syrian territory, in line with international law enshrined in UN resolutions.

“We do not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967, including the Golan Heights, and we do not consider them to be part of the territory of the state of Israel,” Belgian Ambassador Marc Pesteen de Buytswerve tells reporters.

“We raise our strong concerns about broader consequences of recognizing illegal annexation and also about the broader regional consequences,” he says, flanked by the ambassadors of the four other countries.


More troops ordered to south even as calm appears to hold

The Israel Defense Forces is sending additional troops to the south, even as a fragile calm appears to stick along the Gaza border after a day of violence.

Following a security briefing led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also the defense minister, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi announced additional infantry and artillery forces would be deployed to the area. The IDF chief also approved additional call-ups from the military reserves for reinforcement, according to the army.

Israeli official: There is no ceasefire, fighting could start at ‘any moment’

An Israeli official says there is no ceasefire agreement with Hamas in the Gaza Strip and warns fighting between the sides could resume imminently.

“There is no ceasefire, the fighting could restart at any moment,” the official says, adding that this security assessment prompted the decision to bolster troops at the border.

IDF lifts restrictions on communities in south

The Israeli military removes all restrictions on communities in southern Israel beginning tomorrow, despite ongoing tensions following a large-scale exchange of fire between the IDF and terror groups in the Strip the day before.

Schools in the towns surrounding the Gaza Strip had been closed today and some businesses were ordered closed.

Judah Ari Gross


NY county bans unvaccinated minors in public as measles spreads

A county in New York City’s northern suburbs is banning unvaccinated minors from public places to fight a measles outbreak that has infected more than 150 people since October.

Rockland County Executive Ed Day plans to discuss details Tuesday at a news conference on the state of emergency that is being declared.

The county is experiencing New York state’s longest measles outbreak since the disease was officially eliminated from the United States in 2000. Health officials say the best way to stop the disease’s spread is a high vaccination rate in the community.

Earlier this month, a federal judge denied parents’ request to let 44 unvaccinated children return to the Waldorf School in Rockland County.


Sirens sounds in Gaza border region

Rocket alert sirens are triggered in the Eshkol region.

There are no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

Rocket lands in Eshkol region, no injuries — IDF

The Israeli military says one rocket was fired at the Eshkol region from the Gaza Strip.

The projectile appears to have landed in an open field, causing neither injury nor damage.

— Judah Ari Gross

German magazine ordered to pull claims about Iranian group

A German court has ordered weekly magazine Der Spiegel to pull passages from an article that said an exiled Iranian opposition group engaged in “torture” and “psychoterror,” saying the article didn’t support the allegations.

The Hamburg state court says in its ruling that it would fine the magazine 250,000 euros (about $282,000) if the passages about a Mujahedeen-e-Khalq camp in Albania weren’t removed.

Der Spiegel tells The Associated Press in an email Tuesday it was considering whether to appeal. The passages from the Feb. 16 issue still appear online.

The Mujahedeen-e-Khalq welcomes the ruling, saying the article “spread a wealth of lies and false allegations” about the group.

The ruling came at a difficult time for Spiegel. An internal investigation revealed in December that a star reporter for the magazine fabricated parts of multiple stories.


Palestinian envoy to UN: Israel waging ‘campaign of violence and terror’ in Gaza

The Palestinian ambassador to the UN says the situation in Gaza “is part of the long-running campaign of violence and terror being waged against our people by Israel.”

Riyad Mansour warns the UN Security Council on Tuesday that “today, again, we find ourselves at the edge of the precipice, fearing for the lives of our people as Israeli officials ratchet up their threats of war against the besieged Gaza Strip.”

Israel traded fire with Hamas after a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit a house in central Israel early Monday, wounding seven people.

Mansour, who represents the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, stresses that “history does not start from firing rockets or doing something that is wrong,” stressing that “the Palestinian leadership has repeatedly and unequivocally condemned acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror.”

He urges the Security Council to “make its voice heard and act to deter further violence and escalation of this serious situation.”


Jewish groups providing financial support to victims of New Zealand attacks

The American Jewish Committee has partnered with the New Zealand Jewish Council to provide financial support for the victims of attacks on two mosques in New Zealand and for the Muslim community.

“We are moved as Jews, as human beings, to respond with heartfelt compassion for the families of the victims, for all in New Zealand’s Muslim community hurting in the wake of this unspeakable terrorist assault,” American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris says in a statement issued Tuesday.

There is no word on how much money would be going to the victims and the community. The Jewish Council says it will find the appropriate agency to receive and dispense the assistance.

Fifty Muslim worshippers were killed and at least 20 injured following shootings at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch on March 15.


Palestinian terror groups say rocket fire could have been act of ‘individual’

Sources in the joint command center of various Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip tell a Palestinian website the rocket may have been a rogue act.

“The rocket that fell after Egypt brokered a calming could be a result of an individual act of one of the factions in Gaza. It is not a part of the command center’s activities,” the sources tell Dunya al-Watan.

Adam Rasgon

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