The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they happened.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says the Russian siege of the port city of Mariupol constitutes a “crime against humanity.”
“What the Russian troops are doing to Mariupol is a crime against humanity, which is happening in front of the eyes of the whole planet in real time,” Zelensky tells the Danish parliament in a video address.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is admitted to a military hospital in Brasilia to undergo tests after feeling unwell, local media reports.
Bolsonaro, 67, who was stabbed in the abdomen during the 2018 presidential campaign leaving him with lasting health problems, was absent from an evening event organized by the Republican Party which he had been slated to attend.
“I’m sure the president is fine, it’s just some extra exams he’s doing, that’s why he’s not here,” party chairman Marcos Pereira says.
According to the G1 news site, First Lady Michelle Bolsonaro, who attended the event, says that her husband “is fine,” and Minister of Communication Fabio Faria reports that the president simply felt “discomfort.”
Ukrainian forces claimed to have retaken a Kyiv suburb and an eastern town from the Russians in what is becoming a back-and-forth stalemate on the ground, while negotiators began assembling for another round of talks aimed at stopping the fighting.
Ahead of the talks, to be held in Istanbul, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says his country is prepared to declare its neutrality, as Moscow has demanded, and is open to compromise on the fate of the Donbas, the contested region in the country’s east.
The mayor of Irpin, a northwestern Kyiv suburb that has been the scene of some of the heaviest fighting near the capital, says that the city has been “liberated” from Russian troops.
Zelensky warns that Russian forces are trying to regroup after losing the area.
The Pentagon may have to ask Congress for additional money to support Ukraine’s battle against Russia’s invasion, including to replenish America’s arsenal for weapons sent to Kyiv, officials say.
Rolling out the Defense Department’s $773 billion request for fiscal 2023, Pentagon leaders say the budget was finalized before the invasion, so it has no specific money for the war. Congress approved a $13.5 billion emergency funding package in early March.
The leaders say it is too early to predict how quickly Ukrainian forces will use up the weapons and ammunition already being provided, and how much the US will need to replace what it sends to Ukraine, such as Stinger and Javelin missiles or body armor and other equipment.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says Russian forces are still attacking Kyiv, despite being driven out of Irpin, a suburb northwest of the capital that has seen heavy fighting.
He says the Russians remain in control of northern suburbs and are trying to regroup after losing Irpin earlier today. He urges Ukrainians not to let up in the war.
“We still have to fight, we have to endure,” Zelensky says in his nighttime video address to the nation. “We can’t express our emotions now. We can’t raise expectations, simply so that we don’t burn out.”
Zelensky says the situation remains tense in the northeast, around Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkhiv, and also in the eastern Donbas region and in the south around Mariupol, which remains blockaded by Russian troops.
The president says no humanitarian corridors could be opened today out of the besieged city.
Amnesty International is accusing Russia of committing war crimes in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.
The human rights organization will soon release an in-depth report on the devastation caused by Russia’s assault on the city on the Sea of Azov, Amnesty’s Secretary-General Agnes Callamard says in a press conference in Johannesburg.
“The siege of Mariupol, the denial of humanitarian evacuation and humanitarian escape for the population, and the targeting of civilians, according to Amnesty International’s investigation, amounts to war crimes,” says Callamard. “That is the reality of Ukraine right now.”
Callamard says “the crisis in Ukraine right now, the invasion … is not just any kind of violation of international law. It is an aggression. It is a violation of the UN charter of the kind that we saw when the US invaded Iraq.”
A spokesman for the Kremlin tells PBS that Russia will only utilize nuclear weapons in the case of an existential threat to its existence.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov tells PBS in an interview that the current conflict in Ukraine is not a reason to resort to nuclear weapons.
“Any outcome of the operation [in Ukraine], of course is not a reason for usage of a nuclear weapon,” Peskov says. “We have a security concept that very clearly states that only when there is a threat for existence of the state, in our country, we can use and we will actually use nuclear weapons to eliminate the threat for the existence of our country.”
The United States is sending six US Navy radar-jamming aircraft to Germany to enhance NATO capabilities, the Pentagon says.
The EA-18G Growler aircraft are “not being deployed to be used against Russian forces in Ukraine,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby says. “They are being deployed completely in keeping with our efforts to bolster NATO’s deterrence and defense capabilities along that eastern flank.”
Kirby says the planes are expected to arrive at Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany today from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington state.
He says the aircraft, a modified version of the F/A-18, specialize in electronic warfare, using sensors to confuse enemy radars and air defense systems.
The Pentagon spokesman says 240 navy personnel are to accompany the aircraft to Germany.
Seven European Union countries urge their citizens to refrain from joining the Ukrainian military resistance against Russia’s invading troops.
The appeal was issued by the justice ministers of France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Luxembourg and Belgium.
The ministers of the seven countries “have unanimously discouraged Europeans from joining” the ranks of voluntary combatants heading to the war in Ukraine, according to a statement after their meeting in Brussels.
After Russian troops invaded on February 24, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky openly invited foreigners to come to his country’s aid as part of an “International Legion” that would fight side by side with Ukrainians.
On March 6, Ukraine said around 20,000 people had answered his call.
“We obviously discourage people to travel to a war zone,” French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin says after talks with his counterparts in Brussels. “To my knowledge, there have been very few departures from France that could be confirmed… almost none,” says Darmanin, whose country currently hold the presidency of the 27-member EU.
Russia’s Wagner Group has been deployed to eastern Ukraine, the UK’s ministry of defense says, adding that more than 1,000 mercenaries are likely to join the war.
“Russian Private Military Company the Wagner Group has deployed to eastern Ukraine,” the ministry of defense writes in a tweet. “They are expected to deploy more than 1,000 mercenaries, including senior leaders of the organization, to undertake combat operations.”
A missile attack hit an oil depot in western Ukraine, says Rivne’s regional governor, marking the second attack on oil facilities in the region and the latest in a series of such attacks in recent days.
Western Ukraine has not seen ground combat, but missiles have struck oil depots and a military plant in Lviv, a major city close to Poland where hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have gone to escape fighting elsewhere.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky suggested in an interview with Russian journalists released yesterday that the attacks on oil depots are intended to disrupt the planting season in Ukraine, which is a major grain producer.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote tomorrow on advancing the confirmation of US President Joe Biden’s nominee to serve as special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, Deborah Lipstadt.
Lipstadt’s nomination has been blocked for months, most recently by Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who prevented a vote from being held earlier this month.
Last March, Lipstadt tweeted an article about a statement Johnson made in which he said he would have been more concerned by the January 6 insurrection had the rioters been “Black Lives Matter and Antifa protesters” as opposed to Trump supporters. Lipstadt wrote, “This is white supremacy/nationalism. Pure and simple.”
Lipstadt still has the votes to make it out of committee and is also sure to be confirmed by the entire Senate in a subsequent vote that has not yet been scheduled.
The Foreign Relations Committee will also vote on advancing the confirmation of Biden’s nominee to serve as assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, Barbara Leaf. Her nomination has similarly been held up for months by Senate Republicans.
Over two-thirds of the US Senate, including lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, have signed a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken calling on the Biden administration to quash a UN Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry (COI) into Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
“This one-sided approach is consistent with UNHRC’s continuing bias against Israel and the disproportionate use of resources in an ongoing campaign to disparage, discredit and denounce Israel,” the lawmakers write in the letter led by Democrat Sen. Ben Cardin and Republican Sen. Rob Portman. The initiative is backed by 31 Democrats and 37 Republicans.
The Biden administration rejoined the UNHCR earlier this year, after former president Donald Trump had withdrawn US membership over what he said was the council’s anti-Israel bias. The current White House has justified the reversal, saying it is unable to influence the international dialogue on human rights when it does not have a seat at the table. Biden officials have insisted that they will use their membership to oppose one-sided measures targeting Israel and spoke out against the 125-8-34 vote to launch the open-ended probe into Israel following last May’s Gaza war.
The only way to quashing the probe after the UNHCR voted to establish the COI and the UN General assembly voted to approve an annual budget of over $4 million would be for the council to adopt a resolution reversing the previous one — a rather unlikely possibility given the overwhelming support for the initiative.
Today’s letter follows a similar one penned in the House that was signed by a more modest 42 lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.
AIPAC hails the letter, calling the probe “part of the UN’s broad, decades-long campaign to criminalize and delegitimize the world’s only Jewish state.”
BRUSSELS — Talks between world powers and Iran on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal are stuck, with Tehran throwing up an obstacle after Russia obstructionism was overcome, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says today.
“The JCPOA, it’s not getting to an end,” Borrell tells the European Parliament after returning from a trip to the Gulf, referring to the accord formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
“It would be a shame not to reach some sort of an agreement when we’re so near to reaching one. But I cannot guarantee that we will reach an agreement,” he says.
Iran began retreating from most of its commitments under the accord after the United States unilaterally withdrew in 2018 and began reimposing crippling economic sanctions.
Since last year, efforts have been made to bring back the deal, with Borrell’s deputy Enrique Mora leading coordination efforts.
Borrell’s downbeat assessment of the JCPOA talks came after comments he made to reporters on the sidelines of the Doha Forum over the weekend, when he said that an agreement could happen in “a matter of days.”
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine has proof that Russian forces have used banned cluster bombs in two southern regions of the country, Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova says.
Cluster bombs spread dozens of tiny explosive charges across an area, some of which may not explode immediately, in effect becoming anti-personnel mines that pose a threat to civilians long after a conflict ends.
Pressure groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said that they collected proof of use of cluster bombs in areas where civilians were present in Ukraine.
A UN treaty concluded in 1997 banned the use of anti-personnel mines, but neither Russia nor the United States signed, although Ukraine did.
Asked by journalists about the use of such munitions by Russians in their bombardments of the Ukrainian capital since the invasion began over a month ago, Venediktova says she does not have concrete proof, but that investigations are under way.
“But… we have proof of the utilization of cluster bombes in the Odesa region and in the Kherson area,” she says.
Russian troops have been held at bay from advancing on Odesa, Ukraine’s main port city on the Black Sea.
Kherson is the only major city that Russian forces have captured since their invasion began, but Ukrainian troops have sought to recapture the mid-sized city on the route from Russian-occupied Crimea to Odesa.
Venediktova says that journalists are bringing to light cases of possible use of cluster bombs and other banned weapons.
“But… I can only mention instances where I have very concrete proof, for example… when I have (bomb) fragments or soil samples and analyses,” she says, without providing additional details.
The Shin Bet and police are expected tonight to round up former terror convicts with Islamic State links and those investigated for suspected connections to the jihadist group, according to the Kan public broadcaster.
The report says those arrested overnight will be warned against taking part in terror activities, and anyone considered highly suspect will be held in custody.
A security source quoted by the broadcaster says that following Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s announcement earlier today, administrative detention will be used against high-risk suspects to prevent any further attacks.
The controversial practice allows Israeli authorities to hold suspects without charge.
The report also says security services have a list of suspects with IS connections who possess weapons.
WASHINGTON — A federal judge orders the release of more than 100 emails from Trump adviser John Eastman to the House committee investigating the insurrection at the US Capitol, asserting that it is “more likely than not” that former president Donald Trump committed crimes in his attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 election.
The ruling by US District Court Judge David Carter marks a major legal win for the panel, as it looks to correspondence from Eastman, the lawyer who was consulting with Trump as he attempted to overturn the presidential election.
“Based on the evidence, the Court finds it more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021,” Carter writes in the ruling submitted in the federal Central District of California.
Eastman was trying to withhold documents from the committee on the basis of an attorney-client privilege claim between him and the former president. The committee responded earlier this month, arguing that there is a legal exception allowing the disclosure of communications regarding ongoing or future crimes.
An attorney representing Eastman does not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The March 3 filing from the committee was its most formal effort to link the former president to a federal crime. Lawmakers do not have the power to bring criminal charges on their own and can only make a referral to the Justice Department. The department has been investigating last year’s riot, but it has not given any indication that it is considering seeking charges against Trump.
The committee argued in the court documents that Trump and his associates engaged in a “criminal conspiracy” to prevent Congress from certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the electoral college. Trump and those working with him then spread false information about the outcome of the presidential election and pressured state officials to overturn the results, potentially violating multiple federal laws, the panel said.
BERLIN — The German FA has condemned the behavior of a home supporter who is being investigated for giving the Nazi salute during Saturday’s friendly soccer win over Israel.
A 28-year-old man has been questioned by police after repeatedly giving the Nazi salute, which is banned in Germany, during the international in Sinsheim.
In a statement, the German Football Association (DFB) says it “strongly condemned the right-wing extremist incident.”
The DFB has a hotline number and an online “whistleblower” system to help fans report incidents during all Germany matches.
“Discrimination in the form of insults… must have no place in soccer,” the statement adds.
There was a separate antisemitic incident during a soccer match in Germany against Israeli opposition earlier this season.
The remand of five Umm al-Fahm residents arrested after yesterday’s shooting attack in Hadera has been extended by 10 days.
They have been barred from speaking with their lawyers, according to Hebrew media reports.
Three of the suspects are suspected of having Islamic State links, while the other two are suspected of being to connected the attack, in which two Border Police officers were killed.
The terrorists were Islamic State supporters from Umm al-Fahm.
The fate of hundreds of civilians who took refuge in a theater hit by Russian bombardment in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol is still unknown because of poor communications, a city councillor says.
The theater, believed to be harboring more than a thousand people, was destroyed in an attack on March 16. Ukraine has claimed that Russia knew civilians were sheltering in the building.
City councilor Kateryna Sukhomlynova tells AFP that the lack of communications and the absence of local authorities in the southeastern city makes it almost impossible to find out the civilians’ fate.
“There are no communications with Mariupol. There is sometimes network availability in some locations, it’s difficult to pick up. And any manipulation with a telephone is dangerous, it can be considered suspect by both sides. You can’t photograph anything,” she says.
But Sukhomlynova, who fled Mariupol on the same day as the strike, also says the city could have been better prepared for the war.
She is speaking via telephone from Ivano-Frankivsk, western Ukraine, where she has sought refuge with her daughter and two nieces.
Mariupol city hall says it fears 300 were killed in the theater, citing witnesses.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said 130 people had been saved, but did not speculate on the number of civilians killed.
MEDYKA, Poland — The number of refugees who have flooded out of Ukraine is nearing 4 million, but data shows fewer people have crossed the border in recent days.
Border guards, aid agencies, and refugees say Russia’s unpredictable war on Ukraine offers few signs as to whether it is just a pause or a permanent drop-off.
In the first two weeks after Russia’s invasion on February 24, about 2.5 million people in Ukraine’s pre-war population of 44 million left the country to avoid the bombs and bloodshed. In the second two weeks, the number of refugees was roughly half that.
The total exodus through yesterday now stands at 3.87 million, according to the latest tally announced today from UNHCR, the UN refugee agency. In the previous 24 hours, only 45,000 people crossed Ukraine’s borders to seek safety, the slowest one-day count yet.
“People who were determined to leave when war breaks out fled in the first days,” says Anna Michalska, a spokeswoman for the Polish border guards.
UNHCR says the war has triggered Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II, and the speed and breadth of refugees fleeing to countries including Poland, Romania, Moldova, Hungary, Slovakia — as well as Russia — is unprecedented in recent times. Poland alone has taken in 2.3 million refugees and Romania nearly 600,000. The United States has vowed to take in 100,000.
WASHINGTON — The United States would spend $6.9 billion to help Ukraine fend off Russia’s invasion and support NATO member countries under a budget proposal that President Joe Biden’s administration releases today.
The funds would represent Washington’s latest allocation of defense aid after Russia’s shock invasion of its neighbor last month, and would be used to “enhance the capabilities and readiness of US forces, NATO allies, and regional partners in the face of Russian aggression,” the White House says.
Russian-Jewish billionaire Roman Abramovich and members of Ukraine’s negotiating team suffered a suspected poisoning earlier this month after meeting in Kyiv, the Wall Street Journal reports.
According to the report, which cited people familiar with the matter, Abramovich and two top Ukrainian negotiators had symptoms such as red eyes, tearing and peeling skin on their hands faces.
The people cited in the report blame hardliners in Moscow whom they accuse of wanting to scuttle the talks to end the war, but a person close to Abramovich says it wasn’t clear who was behind the suspected poisoning.
The conditions of Abramovich and the other two have reportedly improved and their lives aren’t in danger.
The report also says Abramovich, who has been sanctioned following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has been meeting with negotiators in various countries and also has met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who was unaffected.
Abramovich, who holds Israeli citizenship, is best known for his ownership of English soccer club Chelsea FC, which he has put up for sale in wake of the Western sanctions.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordanian King Abdullah II meet in Ramallah in a rare visit by the Jordanian monarch, against the backdrop of rising tensions between Israel and the Palestinians.
In video released by the Jordanian Royal Court, Abbas tells Abdullah that “we and Jordan are one.”
“Our interests, concerns, pain and hope are the same,” Abbas says.
Abdullah tells Abbas that the Jordanians are there to “listen to you and hear from you what is demanded of the Jordanians.”
The monarch adds that both the Israeli and Palestinian sides must cease “unilateral measures” that threaten peace.
“All unilateral measures, especially those in Jerusalem and the Noble Sanctuary, must stop,” Abdullah says referring to the Temple Mount holy site, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
KYIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian government estimates the economic losses from the Russian invasion, which has been underway for just over one month, at nearly $565 billion.
Economy Minister Yulia Svyrydenko says on Facebook that the $564.9 billion estimate includes immediate damage plus expected losses in trade and economic activity.
“It should be noted that every day the numbers change and unfortunately they are increasing,” says Svyrydenko, who is also a deputy prime minister.
Damage to public and private property — with Russian forces resorting to fierce bombardments that have leveled some cities as their invasion, which began February 24, has stalled — is the biggest element.
Svyrydenko says public infrastructure losses — including damaged roads, railways and airports — total $119 billion, while damage to private property including housing is up to $90.5 billion.
Damages and losses suffered by private firms is put at $80 billion.
Svyrydenko estimates gross domestic product in 2022 will be down by $112 billion, which would be a drop of more than 55 percent of Ukraine’s economic activity last year.
Ukraine’s government will likely miss out on $48 billion in tax revenue, or just about all of what it was expecting to take in this year.
Meanwhile, $54 billion in foreign direct investment will likely not materialize.
Svyrydenko says Ukraine’s government will seek to confiscate Russian assets seized in the country as compensation.
“Ukraine, despite all the obstacles, will seek to exact compensation payments from the aggressor,” she says.
A funeral is being held in Netanya for Border Police officer Shirel Abukarat, who was killed yesterday in a shooting attack in Hadera by two Arab Israeli supporters of Islamic State.
“I want my daughter,” her mother cries out repeatedly.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) March 28, 2022
Her funeral is being held shortly after officer Yezen Falah, who was also killed in the attack, was buried.
A 23-year-old man from the southern Bedouin town of Tel Sheva has been arrested for alleged affiliation with the Islamic State jihadist group.
Police say the man was arrested on Friday night. His remand has been extended until Wednesday.
“The Israel Police and the Shin Bet security service take very seriously any involvement or affiliation of Israeli citizens in terror activity, and will continue to work to investigate the truth while prosecuting those who seek to harm citizens and security forces,” police say in a statement.
The announcement comes a day after a deadly attack in Hadera, committed by two Arab Israelis who were apparent supporters of Islamic State. It also comes a week after a man from the southern Bedouin town of Hura, who served time in prison for trying to join the jihadist group in Syria, killed four people in a terror attack in Beersheba.
The mayor of Irpin says Ukrainian troops have retaken the Kyiv suburb from Russian forces.
“We have good news today – Irpin has been liberated,” Mayor Oleksandr Markushyn says on Telegram, according to Reuters.
There is no independent confirmation of the claim.
The Israel Defense Forces announces it will hold a test of the rocket warning sirens and emergency preparedness in Jerusalem tomorrow.
The sirens will sound in various parts of the municipality from 10:05 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.
Jerusalem was recently split into five separate so-called alert zones.
Residents of the area are asked to enter bomb shelters when they hear the sirens and to ensure that their shelters are well stocked for an emergency.
In the case of an actual attack, the sirens will sound twice, the military says.
ANKARA, Turkey — A plane carrying members of a Russian delegation has landed in Istanbul ahead of talks with Ukrainian negotiators aimed at ending the month-long war.
Turkey’s private DHA news agency says the Russian government plane landed at Istanbul Airport today. The face-to-face talks between the two sides are scheduled to be held tomorrow and Wednesday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that Ukraine could declare neutrality, potentially accept a compromise on contested areas in the country’s east, and offer security guarantees to Russia to secure peace “without delay.” He said only a face-to-face meeting with Russia’s leader could end the war.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said today that the two presidents could meet, but only after the key elements of a potential deal are negotiated.
Earlier talks, held both by video and in person, failed to make progress on ending the war that has killed thousands and driven more than 10 million Ukrainians from their homes — including almost 4 million from their country.
NATO-member Turkey has close relations with both Ukraine and Russia. Earlier this month, it hosted a meeting between the two countries’ foreign ministers.
An Iranian missile attack on Erbil earlier this month was in part due to Tehran’s anger over talks about Iraq’s Kurdistan region possibly supplying gas to Turkey and Europe that also involve Israel, Turkish and Iraqi officials are alleging.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has claimed the missiles targeted an Israeli “strategic center” in Erbil. It also said it was a response to an alleged Israeli airstrike in Syria that killed two IRGC guards.
The villa targeted in the attack belongs to a Kurdish oil tycoon, who has denied his home — which reportedly hosted the talks — was a Mossad base.
“There had been two recent meetings between Israeli and US energy officials and specialists at the villa to discuss shipping Kurdistan gas to Turkey via a new pipeline,” an Iraqi security official tells Reuters.
The news agency says two unnamed Turkish officials confirmed recent talks involving US and Israeli officials regarding the gas supply plans but didn’t disclose where they were held.
According to the report, Israeli energy specialists took part in the talks, but it’s otherwise unclear what Israel’s role was. Turkey has recently mentioned possible cooperation with the Jewish state on energy.
A senior Iranian official is quoted in the report saying the attack was a “multi-purposed message to many people and groups. It’s up to them how to interpret it. Whatever (Israel) is planning, from energy sector to agriculture, will not materialize.”
Thousands of people attend the funeral of Yazan Falah, a Border Police officer killed yesterday in a shooting attack in the northern city of Hadera.
Falah, 19, is being buried at the military cemetery in his hometown of Kisra-Sumei, a Druze village in the Galilee.
“We are ready and prepared to fight and go after all our enemies,” Public Security Minister Omer Barlev says during the funeral, according to the Walla news site.
Barlev says Falah “risked his life every day… We are here thanks to him and his brothers in arms.”
The funeral of the other officer killed in the attack, Shirel Abukarat, is due to be held shortly in the coastal city of Netanya.
אלפי בני אדם הגיעו לחלקה הצבאית בבית העלמין ביישוב כסרא-סמיע כדי ללוות את רב-שוטר יזן פלאח שנרצח בפיגוע הירי: "רצינו לחגוג בחתונתו" pic.twitter.com/MlRSpx5eLa
— ynet עדכוני (@ynetalerts) March 28, 2022
Sasha Zlobjn from Kharkiv, Ukraine, is the 10,000th person to immigrate to Israel from the former Soviet Union since Russia invaded Ukraine last month, the Immigration and Absorption Ministry says.
Zlobjn arrived in Israel with his grandparents earlier today on a flight with dozens of other Ukrainian refugees, fleeing the brutal flighting in their country.
“I fled Kharkiv with my grandmother and grandfather, but unfortunately my parents stayed there. It was an exhausting trip that ended with this nice reception,” Zlobjn tells immigration officials, according to the ministry.
More than two-thirds of the 10,000 people who have immigrated to Israel in the past month have come from Ukraine, according to the ministry. The rest have come from Russia and Belarus. As the government considers all of these immigrants from the former Soviet Union as fleeing humanitarian crises — the war in Ukraine and increased repression in Russia and Belarus — the ministry has taken to lumping all of them in one group for the purposes of its statistics.
Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata hails the massive wave of migration from Ukraine, but acknowledges that it is driven by “difficult circumstances.”
“The State of Israel sees this as its hour of need, and there is great national and governmental enlistment in the absorption of immigrants,” Tamano-Shata says.
Israeli officials have estimated that tens of thousands of people from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus will immigrate to Israel in the coming weeks and months in light of the war.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani sign a framework agreement on the sidelines of the Negev Summit to guide future cooperation between the two countries.
The cooperation will be led by the respective foreign ministries.
MOSCOW — Russia’s top independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, whose chief editor was last year awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, says it’s suspending publication until the end of Moscow’s military action in Ukraine.
“We have received another warning from Roskomnadzor,” the newspaper says, referring to Russia’s media regulator. “We are suspending publication of the newspaper on our website, on social media and in print — until the end of the ‘special operation in Ukraine.'”
BERLIN — German authorities are considering whether to prosecute people who use the “Z” symbol to show support for Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
Russian troops in Ukraine have painted the letter Z on the side of vehicles and it has been adopted by some in Russia as a symbol of support for what the Kremlin describes as a “special military operation” in the neighboring country.
A spokesman for the German Interior Ministry says that security services are aware the symbol is also being used at rallies in Germany.
The spokesman, Marek Wede, tells reporters in Berlin that the letter can under certain circumstances be considered a sign of support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“The Russian attack on Ukraine is a crime and whoever publicly approves of this war can thereby become criminally liable,” Wede says.
He adds that federal authorities welcomed announcements by some German states that they would investigate whether individual instances of the “Z” use constitute criminal acts.
New released images emerge of Border Police officers Yazan Falah and Shirel Abukara from hours before they were killed in a shooting attack in the northern city of Hadera.
The images include the two posing for a photo together at their base and security camera footage of them with other officers at a restaurant in Hadera, shortly before the two were shot dead by Islamic State supporters.
דקות לפני הפיגוע בחדרה: שיראל ויזן יושבים עם חבריהם במסעדה
(אורלי אלקלעי) pic.twitter.com/mayBW8zfgt
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) March 28, 2022
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Asked whether the climate crisis might push states in the Middle East and North Africa region to work together more closely, the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Patricia Espinosa, says the climate crisis “is a global issue – it does not recognize borders, political ideologies, or anything.”
“If we as humanity can come together and strengthen cooperation everywhere, it will be a win-win situation for everyone,” she tells The Times of Israel.
Speaking on the sidelines of the first-ever United Nations Middle East and North Africa Climate Week, being held this week in Dubai, Espinosa says, “The world is facing a very difficult moment right now and I hope the fact that the climate crisis remains the biggest threat to humanity is going to be clear in the minds of the leaders of the world so that while giving attention to all the things that are happening now, we do not forget this.”
“I think that what we have seen is that when humanity comes together, it really can have amazing results. I am an optimist and I want to remain optimistic,” she adds.
MOSCOW — Direct talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky would be “counterproductive,” the Russian foreign minister says, as delegations prepare for Turkey-hosted talks on Moscow’s military operation.
Putin “has said he has never refused to meet President Zelensky. The only thing that he considers fundamentally important is for these meetings to be well prepared,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says today in televised comments to journalists, after Zelensky called for a meeting with his Russian counterpart.
Lavrov says the current crisis has “been brewing so long, all these years, that a huge number of problems have built up, therefore just meeting and exchanging views on what you think and I think, that would just be counterproductive now.”
Zelensky and Putin have met only once, at talks in Paris in 2019.
As the countries are set to resume in-person peace talks in Istanbul, Lavrov says Moscow maintains its demands for demilitarization and “denazification” in Ukraine.
Putin has named these as Moscow’s military goals, as well as for Ukraine to have neutral status.
“Both the demilitarization and the denazification of Ukraine are an essential component of the agreements that we are trying to achieve,” Lavrov says.
“We have an interest in these talks ending with a result that will achieve the fundamental aims for us,” the minister says.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett instructs the security services to hold terror suspects in administrative detention, a day after two police officers were killed in a shooting attack in Hadera by Islamic Sate supporters.
According to a statement from Bennett’s office, he says the controversial practice — which is typically deployed against Palestinians in the West Bank — should be used “in appropriate circumstances in which it is possible to present a proper legal basis.”
At a security assessment with security chiefs and other officials, he also calls for security services to continue the “broad operational effort”; for the deployment of more troops; for allowing more IDF constricts and reservists to carry guns; and for monitoring social networks, among other measures, saying Israel “is in a new situation that requires the security services to prepare and adapt to the circumstances.”
Bennett is attending the meeting virtually after testing positive for COVID-19
Defense Minister Benny Gantz has postponed his trip to India, which was slated to begin tomorrow, his office says.
His office does not give a reason for the postponement, or say when the trip may eventually take place, but the announcement comes a day after a deadly terror attack in Israel, the second in a week.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visit the grave of David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, at Sde Boker, after the end of the Negev Summit’s official program.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken holds a lunch meeting with Egyptian FM Sameh Shoukry after the joint statements that close the official Negev Summit program.
RAMALLAH, West Bank — Jordan’s King Abdullah II arrives in Ramallah to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in his first trip to the West Bank since 2017.
Abdullah’s visit comes as foreign ministers from four Arab states participated in an unprecedented meeting hosted in Israel, a gathering Israel hailed as “historic,” following a series of normalization agreements last year, which angered the Palestinians.
The visit also comes less than a week before Ramadan, the Muslim holy month which last year saw waves of violence across the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The Jordanian king met Foreign Minister Yair Lapid earlier this month to discuss strategies for containing unrest during Ramadan.
Senior Palestinian official Bassam al-Salihi tells The Times of Israel that the Arab diplomats’ Sde Boker summit will not help the Palestinians, “whatever their reasoning.”
“The Palestinian issue won’t be present in this summit. If it is present, it will be on Israel’s terms,” says Al-Salihi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee.
United Arab Emirates’ chief diplomat Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan hails the American role in helping the Sde Boker summit come to pass.
Al Nahyan also gushes over the warming ties between Israel and the Middle East.
“It’s new for Abdellatif and Nasser and me to be in Israel… even though Israel has been in this region for a very long time, this is our first time. We haven’t known one another,” al Nahyan says.
Al Nahyan says the Sde Boker summit is a blow against the terror attack yesterday in Hadera.
Morocco’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita also opens his remarks by condemning the terror attack last night in Hadera.
He says the summit is the “best response to such attacks.”
Bourita says more bilateral visits will come in the future.
“[Establishing relations] is not a move of opportunity. It is a move of conviction,” says Bourita.
“We believe in a thorough, paradigm-shaping peace,” Bourita adds.
Bourita reemphasizes Rabat’s support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He adds that the solution must also respect Israeli security interests.
Morocco’s decision to recognize Israel “is not an opportunistic move,” he stresses, noting that the mayors of the Negev cities of Yeruham and Dimona are of Moroccan origin.
“A solution is possible” for peace with the Palestinians, he says, noting that Morocco has always supported a two-state solution that is based on the 1967 borders and also protects Israel’s security.
“I hope we meet again soon in a different desert, but with the same spirit,” he concludes.
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry calls the summit “constructive and in-depth.”
He refers to the 43rd anniversary of the peace between Egypt and Israel, and says that he sees “constructive development” of the relationship.
Shoukry focuses on the Palestinians in his statement, saying the summit did highlight the importance of the peace process with the Palestinians and the viability of the two-state solution “with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
He offers general condemnation of terrorism without specifically pointing to the attack in Hadera.
He also warns against “unilateral activity” during Ramadan.
Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani opens his remarks by condemning the terror attack in Hadera last night that claimed two Israeli lives.
“I would like to start by condemning the terror attack that took place last night…and convey my condolences to the bereaved families,” says Al Zayani.
Al Zayani says recent events, such as the Houthi militia attacks in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, as well as the need to “resolve the Iranian nuclear file,” make the need to join forces more urgent.
The diplomat says that the process must also include efforts to provide a “viable state” for the Palestinians.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemns the Hadera attack at the outset of his statement, taking care to say the names of the two slain Border Police officers.
Turning to the Abraham Accords, he says that “once-impossible things have become possible.” Like Lapid, Blinken refers to the biblical Abraham.
He talks about growing economic ties, solar energy deals, and diplomatic forums taking place across the region in recent weeks. He also notes the upcoming Abraham Accord sports games at the 2020 Expo Dubai.
He pledges that the US will continue to support and help grow the accords.
He stresses that the accords are not a substitute for progress on the Palestinian front, and promises to work to see Palestinian and Israelis enjoying “equal measures” of prosperity, dignity, and security.
Blinken assures the room that the US will help its allies confront common enemies in the region, including Iran.
“This is a new dawn,” says Blinken.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid says that the shared capabilities and regional security architecture under discussion “intimidates and deters our common enemies — first and foremost, Iran and its proxies.”
“They certainly have something to fear,” he says.
“This meeting is the first of its kind, but not the last,” he says. “Last night we decided to make the Negev Summit a permanent forum.”
Lapid concludes by saying that Palestinians are also invited to replace the use of terror with progress and success.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid opens his statement at the end of the Negev Summit with a condemnation of yesterday’s terrorist attack in Hadera.
“Last night, for the second time in a week, terrorists struck in the heart of Israel.”
“It was murder for the sake of murder, terror for the sake of terror,” he says.
The minister says terrorists wish to sow disunity and prevent peace. “They will not succeed.”
Lapid pledges to continue on the “path of peace,” and stresses that all the guests at the summit condemned the attack.
The foreign ministers at the Negev Summit are giving joint statements:
Join us live for joint statements from the Negev Summit. ????????????????????????????????????????????????
Posted by Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday, March 28, 2022
Israeli, American and Arab diplomats taking part in the Negev Summit have agreed that the conference will become a regular forum rotating between the participating countries, says Oded Yosef, the Foreign Ministry’s Deputy Director General for the Midde East.
The discussions this morning at the summit dealt directly with the security challenges facing the countries gathered at Sde Boker, Yosef adds.
Those challenges include those posed by Iran and its armed proxies, he says. “It was a very open, honest conversation about real problems, and how we deal with them together.”
He adds: “What really stood out today was that no one ignored the gaps that exist, and on the other hand, there was a very clear understanding that these gaps were meaningfully minimized.”
The “regional security architecture” under discussion at the summit would include “confronting threats from Iran and its proxies,” he says, and would feature “a meaningful US presence.
“It will include cooperation in all the areas you can think of,” he says, including in diplomacy, technology, and at international organizations.
The Biden administration is backing the initiatives coming out of the summit, he says. “There was a very clear statement by the [US] secretary of state that there is a very large commitment and presence from the US to support all of these processes.”
Yosef says the sides also discussed challenges like food security and energy at length. The Palestinian issue did come up, according to the diplomat, but it was not at the center of the conversation.
The senior diplomats at the forum were very clear in their condemnation of the recent attacks and discussed the messages that would help ensure the coming month of Ramadan would be as calm as possible.
At the Negev Summit, Israel’s Ambassador to Egypt Amira Oron says the conference of Israeli and Arab foreign ministers “shows that the region is changing dramatically.”
She adds: “We have the same interests, challenges and threats — certainly Iran, but we’re also discussing other things.”
Oron also asserts that Egyptian public opinion is also increasingly in favor of “nurturing and actualizing the peace agreement we’ve had for the past 43 years.”
She notes that a growing number of Egyptian businesses are looking at the potential in Israel.
Meanwhile the Egyptian foreign ministry tweets out its first joint photo of ministers at the conference.
صورة جماعية لوزراء الخارجية المشاركين في الاجتماع السداسي. pic.twitter.com/XGoADdJZQm
— Egypt MFA Spokesperson (@MfaEgypt) March 28, 2022
The meeting between the six foreign ministers and their respective staffs continues at the Negev Summit in Sde Boker.
It is expected to wrap up in a few minutes.
A handful of protesters stand on a hill opposite the Sde Boker summit holding a sign protesting the Palestinians’ absence from the meetings.
“Haven’t you forgotten someone?” says a sign held by members of the left-wing Women Wage Peace group.
While Israeli, Arab and American foreign ministers are meeting today in Sde Boker, senior Palestinian officials are set to meet with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Ramallah.
Ramallah has lambasted the Abraham Accords — which led to agreements between Israel and Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, whose foreign ministers are in Sde Boker — as a duplicitous attempt to bypass the Palestinians.
DUBAI — The first-ever United Nations Middle East and North Africa Climate conference kicks off in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, with panel discussions featuring the environment ministers of all of Israel’s neighbors — Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Syria — but not Israel.
Israel is instead represented by Ambassador Gideon Behar, the Foreign Ministry’s special envoy for climate change.
Environment Minister Tamar Zandberg is leading a delegation to an OECD conference in Paris that is also taking place this week, but is fully coordinated with Behar, a ministry spokeswoman says.
The decision to stage several regional environmental conferences was made at the UN’s COP26 environment conference in Glasgow, Scotland in November.
The Middle East will be hosting the next two COP conferences –- Egypt later this year (COP27) and the United Arab Emirates in 2023.
The brother of one of the gunmen in last night’s deadly attack in Hadera is a police officer serving at a station in the central town of Kfar Saba, according to Hebrew-language media reports.
The mayor of the family’s hometown of Umm al-Fahm is unable to confirm the reports.
While the names of the suspected attackers, both citizens of Israel said by police to come from the northern Arab town, were widely published and remain readily available online, police later secured a gag order.
The meeting between all six foreign ministers, including Israel’s ambassadors to its regional partners, begins at the Kedma hotel at the Negev Summit.
It is expected to end around 11:30.
The diplomats all dined together last night.
Around noon, the foreign ministers are slated to give a joint press conference at the hotel, before the diplomats head to the airport.
Bilateral meetings between the foreign ministers are taking place at the Kedma hotel in Sde Boker.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is meeting with his Moroccan counterpart Nasser Bourita.
Also present at the summit and holding meetings are US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the UAE’s Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Bahrain’s Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani and Egypt’s Sameh Shoukry.
Around noon, the foreign ministers are slated to give a joint statement to press at the hotel, then each diplomat will head home.
It is unclear if the planned visit to David Ben-Gurion’s grave will occur at 11:30 a.m., due to timing issues. Israel’s first prime minister lived at Sde Boker, and he and his wife, Paula, are buried there.
Five residents of Umm al-Fahm are arrested overnight following the deadly attack in Hadera, police say.
Three of them are suspected of affiliation with Islamic State, and the other two of being connected the attack.
All five have been taken to the Shin Bet security agency for further questioning.
During the arrests, police forces seized a firearm and books and items said to be related to the jihadist group.
Police chief Kobi Shabtai tests positive for the coronavirus, police say in a statement.
The announcement says he is feeling well.
The statement is released shortly after the announcement that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has also contracted the virus.
The two attended a situational assessment in Hadera last night after two Border Police officers were killed in a terror attack.
In the two officially released photos by the Government Press Office, Bennett is wearing a mask in both pictures while Shabtai is unmasked in one.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett issues a statement in the wake of yesterday’s terror attack in Hadera in which two people were killed.
“A second attack by Islamic State supporters in Israel requires the security forces to adapt quickly to a new threat, and they have,” he says, referring to the deadly terror attack in the southern city of Beersheba a few days ago, which was also committed by a man who attempted to join the jihadist group.
“I urge citizens to continue to be vigilant. Together, we will also be able to defeat this enemy,” Bennett says.
“The heart is broken by the deaths of Border Police officers Yazan Falah and Shirel Abukarat, who fell while protecting civilians with their bodies from vile murderers. We will not forget their heroism. I wish a complete recovery to the wounded and send my deepest condolences to the families,” Bennett says.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tests positive for the coronavirus, the premier’s spokesperson says.
The statement says the prime minister is feeling well and will continue to work from home.
Bennett will hold a situational assessment this morning on last night’s terror attack with the participation of Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Internal Security Minister Omer Barlev, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar, police chief Kobi Shabtai and other officials.
Bennett attended a meeting in Hadera last night after the attack and was wearing a mask in the officially released photograph.
Earlier this month, Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu contracted the virus.
Israel Railways says 10 stations remain closed today after its signal system was damaged when a tractor hit a communications system near the central city of Lod.
The stations affected include Yavne East, Rehovot, Beer Yaakov, Kfar Chabad, Lod, Ramle, Lod Ganei Aviv, Beit Shemesh, Mazkeret Batya, and Kiryat Malachi.
The railway says normal service is expected only in the afternoon.
Actor Will Smith shocks the Oscars, appearing to confront and hit Chris Rock on stage after the comedian made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith.
After Rock joked to Smith that he was looking forward to a sequel to “GI Jane,” Smith stood up from his seat near the stage, strode up to Rock and slapped him.
After sitting back down, Smith shouted at Rock to “keep my wife’s name out of your (expletive) mouth.”
The moment shocked the Dolby Theatre audience and viewers at home.
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) March 28, 2022
Rock’s Joke appeared to be about Pinkett-Smith’s close-cropped haircut.
AP contributed to this report
For 30 seconds, the Oscars goes silent for Ukraine.
A tribute that starts with words from the Ukrainian-born Mila Kunis ends with the Academy Awards fading to black about midway through Sunday’s show from Los Angeles, with a plea for anyone watching to do whatever possible to send help to those in the war-torn nation.
“Recent global events have left many of us feeling gutted,” Kunis says as she took the stage, part of her remarks to introduce Reba McIntyre’s performance of the Oscar-nominated song “Somehow You Do” from “Four Good Days.”
“Yet when you witness the strength and dignity of those facing such devastation, it’s impossible to not be moved by their resilience,” Kunis continues. “One cannot help but be in awe of those who find strength to keep fighting through unimaginable darkness.”
— ABC News (@ABC) March 28, 2022
BEIJING — China begins locking down most of its largest city of Shanghai on Monday as a coronavirus outbreak surges and amid questions about the economic toll of the nation’s “zero-COVID” strategy.
Shanghai’s Pudong financial district and nearby areas will be locked down from early Monday to Friday as citywide mass testing gets underway, the local government says. In the second phase of the lockdown, the vast downtown area west of the Huangpu River that divides the city will then start its own five-day lockdown Friday.
Residents will be required to stay home and deliveries will be left at checkpoints to ensure there is no contact with the outside world. Offices and all businesses not considered essential will be closed and public transport suspended.
Already, many communities within the city of 26 million have been locked down, with their residents required to submit to multiple tests for COVID-19. And Shanghai’s Disney theme park is among the businesses that closed earlier.
Hours after the deadly terror attack in Hadera, a group of settlers assaulted an elderly Palestinian man near the flashpoint Yitzhar settlement, according to Palestinian media reports.
There were no immediate details on his condition.
مصادر محلية: إصابة مسن فلسطيني بعد اعتداء مستوطنون عليه قرب مستوطنة "يتسهار" جنوب نابلس. pic.twitter.com/HQeOVDXoK8
— شبكة قدس الإخبارية (@qudsn) March 27, 2022
Settlers also hurled stones at homes in the village of Jalud south of Nablus and torched several cars, according to Palestinian media reports.
???? عاجل | مستوطنون يحرقون عدد من المركبات في قرية جالود جنوب نابلس، وسط إطلاق نار صوب للفلسطينيين pic.twitter.com/XelYLdpTxZ
— JawdatSawlmeh جودت سوالمة (@jawdatsawlmi) March 27, 2022
Police chief Kobi Shabtai orders his forces onto a high level of alert across the country after the deadly terror attack in Hadera.
The heightened security will see extra forces deployed and roadblocks and checkpoints set up along main roads.
Ukraine’s priorities at the Ukrainian-Russian talks in Turkey this week will be “sovereignty and territorial integrity,” President Volodymyr Zelensky tells his nation in his nightly address.
“We are looking for peace, really, without delay,” he says. “There is an opportunity and a need for a face-to-face meeting in Turkey. This is not bad. Let’s see the outcome.”
This week, he says, “I will continue to appeal to the parliaments of other countries” to remind them of the dire situation in besieged cities like Mariupol.
He thanks Ukraine’s armed forces, who he said “are holding back the occupiers, and in some areas they are even taking steps forward. Well done.”
Earlier Sunday, Zelenskyy tells reporters that the issue of neutrality – and agreeing to stay out of NATO – should be put to Ukrainian voters in a referendum after Russian troops withdraw from the country.
The Islamic State terror group claims responsibility for a deadly terror attack in Hadera in which two Border Police officers are killed.
The group makes the claim in a post on the Telegram channel and in a statement released by the Amaq propaganda site.
“Two members of the Jewish (state’s) police force were killed and others were injured in an immersive commando attack,” IS says in a rare claim for an attack inside Israel.
The group said two of its fighters had carried out the shooting. It claimed 10 others were wounded in ensuing clashes.
According to the SITE intelligence group, this is the first time since 2017 that IS has officially claimed an attack in Israel.
Earlier, Public Security Minister Omer Barlev said the two gunmen, both Israeli citizens, were affiliated with ISIS.
— Wassim Nasr (@SimNasr) March 27, 2022
AFP contributed to this report
BERLIN — Regime change in Russia is not NATO’s objective, despite Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, says German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, a day after US President Joe Biden branded Vladimir Putin a “butcher” who “cannot remain in power”.
It “is not the objective of NATO, nor that of the US president”, Scholz tells German state television channel ARD.
“I’ve had the chance to talk at length with him at the White House and we have also discussed these questions,” he adds.
The White House moved quickly Saturday to play down Biden’s comments during an impassioned speech in Warsaw.
Having denounced the Russian president as a “butcher” for his invasion of Ukraine, Biden said at the end of the speech: “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”
“Democracy, freedom and justice have a future everywhere,” says Scholz.
“But it’s for the people and to nations to fight for this freedom,” he adds.
Scholz’s comments follow remarks earlier Sunday by French President Emmanuel Macron, in which he warned against verbal “escalation” with Putin.
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