The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they unfolded.
Biden ‘looking forward to working with whoever’ wins Turkey election
US President Joe Biden is “looking forward to working with whoever” wins Turkey’s knife-edge election, the White House says, praising the NATO ally for holding a peaceful vote.
“We congratulate the Turkish people for expressing their desires at the ballot box in a peaceful way,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby tells reporters, noting that the ultimate winner is yet to be decided.
Turkish officials have confirmed that there will be a second-round vote.
Municipal strike to continue until Thursday, but schools resume tomorrow
A major municipal strike is set to continue until Thursday, but the education system will resume its normal operations throughout the country tomorrow, the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel says.
The strike includes not issuing construction permits, not convening planning committees, and freezing construction agreements with the state in high-demand areas.
The strike was called yesterday to pressure the coalition to kill its plan to pool and redistribute a portion of municipal taxes collected from commercial entities. The measure would pull funds from central and wealthier localities to the benefit of more remote and modest municipalities, billed as a way to incentivize housing in the latter.
Detractors say the proposal unfairly taxes localities that invested in building economic infrastructure, and that it will hurt their ability to provide education, social and other municipal services.
Likening Israel to Nazis, Palestinian leader Abbas says country lies ‘like Goebbels’
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas likens Israel to Nazi Germany by saying the country lies like the Third Reich’s chief propagandist Joseph Goebbels.
“Israeli and Zionist claims continue by saying that Israel made the desert bloom. As if Palestine was a desert and they made the desert bloom,” Abbas tells a UN event commemorating the Palestinian Nakba, or catastrophe, which accompanies Israel’s founding in 1948.
“These are lies,” he continues. “They continue to lie, like Goebbels, and they continue to lie until people believe their lies and they continue therefore their false claims by saying that Israel made the desert bloom. Palestine was never a desert.”
At the same event, Abbas also demands that Israel be suspended from the UN if it does not grant Palestinians a state and a right of return for millions of refugees’ descendants, saying Israel agreed to these steps in 1947 to join the UN.
He also accuses the US and Britain for the Nakba, alleging that they “wanted to get rid of their Jews and benefit from their presence in Palestine.”
Charges filed against Palestinians accused of killing Israeli-American Elan Ganeles
Military prosecutors have filed indictments against two Palestinians accused of carrying out a terror shooting attack near Jericho in the West Bank on February 27, killing dual American-Israeli citizen Elan Ganeles.
Luai Ma’arouf and Maher Shalloun, residents of the Aqbat Jabr refugee camp near Jericho, were detained by troops on March 1, just days after the deadly highway attack.
According to the indictment, the pair planned the attack together, purchasing a firearm, ammunition, and a car. The indictment says they drove along the Route 90 highway looking for Israeli-owned cars.
During the attack, one of the men opened fire at Ganeles’s car on the highway, as he was heading to a friend’s wedding in Jerusalem, killing him, before opening fire at several other cars in the area. The pair then set fire to their car as they fled the area toward Jericho.
The Israel Defense Forces says the indictments against Ma’arouf and Shalloun charge them with intentionally causing death — the military court’s equivalent of murder — and other offenses.
The pair will be held until the end of legal proceedings.
US says Russia looking to buy more attack drones from Iran after depleting stockpile
The White House says Russia is looking to buy additional advanced attack drones from Iran for use in the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine, after using up most of the 400 drones it has previously purchased from Tehran.
The US last year publicized satellite imagery and intelligence findings that it said indicate Iran sold hundreds of attack drones to Russia. For months, officials have publicly stated that the United States believes Iran is considering selling hundreds of ballistic missiles to Russia, but Washington has not had evidence a deal was consummated.
“Iran also continues to provide Russia with one-way attack UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). Since August, Iran has provided Russia with more than 400 UAVs primarily of the Shahed variety,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby says.
“Russia has expended most of these UAVs, using them to target Ukrainian critical infrastructure inside Ukraine. By providing Russia with these UAVs, Iran has been directly enabling Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine,” Kirby tells reporters.
The latest revelation is part of a persistent drip of intelligence findings from the administration to detail what US officials say is a deepening defense partnership between Russia and Iran.
It is part of broader administration effort to declassify and publicize intelligence findings of Moscow’s prosecution of its nearly 15-month old war in Ukraine, in hopes of further driving global isolation of Russia.
Man killed in light plane crash named as amateur pilot Tal Ben Yosef
The man killed earlier today in a light plane crash in the north is named as Tal Ben Yosef, 54, an amateur pilot from the central Israel village of Beit Hashmonai, who in the past was the editor of a flight magazine.
Ben Yosef’s local council mourns him as “a role model family man and a beloved man in the community,” adding: “He will be sorely missed. We are shocked and heartbroken and we share the family’s grief.”
Another man was seriously injured in the crash. He is hospitalized at Ziv hospital in Safed, which says his condition has stabilized.
טל בן יוסף הוא ההרוג בהתרסקות המטוס הקל בגליל העליון@_Gitsis_ pic.twitter.com/sAzPFCwCTa
— גלצ (@GLZRadio) May 15, 2023
Consumer price index soars by 0.8% in April, more than expected; inflation stays 5%
Consumer prices in Israel in April rose at a faster rate than forecast, the Central Bureau of Statistics says, putting further pressure on the Bank of Israel to hike interest rates again at the end of the month.
The consumer price index (CPI), a measure of inflation that tracks the average cost of household goods, rose last month by 0.8% above analysts’ expectations of 0.4% to 0.5%, bringing annual inflation over the past 12 months to 5%.
Increases were seen in April in the cost of fresh vegetables and fruits, which rose by 4%, while transportation costs were up by 2.5%, clothing and footwear costs were up by 1.9% and culture and entertainment costs increased by 1.8%. These were offset by declines in house maintenance costs, which were down by 0.5%, and furniture and home equipment costs which fell by 0.2%, according to the statistics bureau.
The Bank of Israel has steadily raised its benchmark interest rate from a record low of 0.1% in April 2022 to 4.5% this year in a bid to rein in inflation, which has been hovering above 5% in annual terms for more than six months, falling short of the government’s target range of between 1% to 3%.
US says UN’s Nakba commemoration reflects ‘institutional anti-Israel bias’
Explaining the decision not to attend today’s United Nations event commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba, the spokesman for the United States Mission to the UN says Washington “does not support events [that are] organized or in support of the institutional anti-Israel bias.”
Nonetheless, “the United States continues to recognize the plight of Palestinian refugees,” US mission spokesman Nate Evans says in a statement.
“The United States supports actions in the UN that bring the parties together and lay the groundwork for a negotiated two-state solution and has also been focused on encouraging the parties to take steps to de-escalate tensions and restore mutual confidence,” Evans continues. “At the same time, the United States has longstanding concerns over anti-Israel bias within the UN system, which is also counter-productive to peace.”
US President Joe Biden’s administration has consistently sided with Israel at the UN, blocking roughly half-a-dozen resolutions and statements, and weighing in on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at Jerusalem’s behest. While it has sometimes taken the same positions as member states against Israeli policy in the West Bank, the administration has insisted that the UN is not the correct forum for adjudicating the conflict.
Report: US mulls tapping ex-envoy to Israel Dan Shapiro as point person on Abraham Accords
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is reportedly considering appointing former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro as the State Department’s point person on the Abraham Accords, the series of US-brokered normalization deals between the Jewish state and Arab neighbors.
Shapiro, who served as envoy during former US president Barack Obama’s administration, may become the first to hold such a position in the State Department, according to the Walla news site, which cites two unnamed senior US officials.
Such an appointment would signal the intention of Joe Biden’s current administration to expand the Abraham Accords to more countries.
Shapiro and the State Department have declined to comment, the report says.
Abbas urges UN to establish annual event marking the Palestinian ‘Nakba’
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas calls on the United Nations to establish an annual event with a UN resolution to commemorate the Nakba, “considering the 15th of May of every year, an international day to commemorate the Palestinian plight which is a plight for humanity as a whole.”
Speaking at a UN event marking the “catastrophe” of Israel, Abbas also says the Palestinians are building a “commemoration monument” to the Nakba.
He says Israel committed “more than 50 massacres” in 1948, demolished over 530 Palestinian villages and displaced 957,000 refugees.
He says the Israeli government is calling for a “new Nakba” against the Palestinians.
“[Israeli ministers Itamar] Ben Gvir and [Bezalel] Smotrich are calling for the expelling of Palestinians out of their homes and demolishing their homes and displacing them, which the Israeli government itself is doing led by who? It is led by [Benjamin] Netanyahu.”
“Netanyahu and other and even worse people, Smotrich and Ben Gvir, this is what they’re calling for. Some people are calling for massacring Palestinians and this is what happened in Huwara,” Abbas claims.
“When things happened in Huwara, Ben Gvir said: ‘Why didn’t you massacre them?’ So what happened in Huwara, the killing and burning of houses and properties by terrorist settler gangs, happened under the protection of Israeli army,” Abbas says.
Ben Gvir never made such a remark after settlers rampaged earlier this year through the West Bank village, burning cars and homes. One man died at the time under unclear circumstances.
Palestinian leader urges UN to ban Israel, says US, UK caused Nakba to ‘get rid of their Jews’
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas demands that Israel be suspended from the UN if it does not grant Palestinians a state and a right of return for millions of refugees’ descendants, saying Israel agreed to these steps in 1947 to join the UN.
“Forcing Israel to implement these two resolutions was a condition, a prerequisite for their membership in the UN at the time. However, sadly, certain countries — we all know we are talking about, we will mention them later — in this organization have deliberately obstructed the implementation of these resolutions in a practice that undermines justice, ethics and human values,” Abbas says, speaking at a UN event marking the “catastrophe” of Israel’s creation.
“We demand today, officially, in accordance with international law and international resolutions, to make sure that Israel respects these resolutions, or suspend Israel’s membership in the UN, particularly since Israel never fulfilled its obligations and the prerequisites for its membership in this organization that they committed to implementing,” he says.
“Britain and the United States specifically bear political and ethical responsibility directly for the Nakba of the Palestinian people, because they took part in rendering our people a victim when they decided to establish and plant another entity in our historic homeland for their own colonial goals,” Abbas says. “These countries wanted to get rid of their Jews and benefit from their presence in Palestine.”
UAE said to invite Assad to COP28 annual summit, usually attended by Western leaders
The United Arab Emirates has invited Syrian President Bashar Assad to attend the United Nations climate summit in Dubai later this year, Syrian state media says.
Assad’s first invitation to a global summit since the start of Syria’s war in 2011 comes as the Arab world gradually warms up to Damascus after a long spell in the diplomatic wilderness.
The Emirati charge d’affaires in Syria, Abdul Hakeem al-Nuaimi, has handed Assad an invitation from UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan “to attend the COP28 climate conference,” official news agency SANA reported.
Heads of Western states that have imposed sanctions on Syria over the civil war and oppose normalization with Damascus usually attend the COP summits. US President Joe Biden and France’s Emmanuel Macron were among those who attended last year’s talks in Egypt.
The UAE reestablished ties with Syria in 2018 and has been leading the recent charge to reintegrate Damascus into the Arab fold.
Israeli diplomat: 32 countries set to boycott UN’s Nakba commemoration
Israel reached out to around 100 countries in recent days in an attempt to convince them to avoid today’s event at the UN General Assembly marking the Nakba, the Palestinian term for the “catastrophe” of Israel’s establishment, according to an Israeli diplomat.
Some 32 countries, including the US, the UK, Canada and Ukraine, have told Israel they would be staying away. Ten of these countries are EU member states, says the diplomat, and three are in Africa.
India, where Foreign Minister Eli Cohen visited last week, will also not attend the event.
Other countries, including some who have been particularly critical of Israel in recent years, have told the Foreign Ministry they will be lowering the level of representation at the event, which was initiated by the Palestinian mission to the UN to mark 75 years since Israel’s founding.
“We will fight the lie of the ‘Nakba’ with all our might,” pledges Cohen in a video statement from Stockholm, “and we will not allow the Palestinians to continue spreading lies and to distort history.”
The commemoration of the Nakba, the first of its kind at the UN, will include a high-level special meeting at the UN Headquarters in New York and a special event in the General Assembly Hall. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to travel to New York to attend.
During Gaza op, more men and younger Israelis called emotional support hotline
Israeli emotional first-aid organization ERAN has released statistics related to the number of calls and online requests for assistance it received during the recent five-day Operation Shield and Arrow against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group in Gaza.
Nearly half of the 4,660 calls — 48% — were from men, a jump from an average of 37% last year.
One-third of calls during the operation were from young adults and parents age 25-35. Requests for emotional support came in from people even younger, including 653 young adults and soldiers between the ages of 18-24, and 326 (7%) children and teens aged 17 and younger.
“These statistics show that in a time of emergency, the age of callers goes down. The number of calls we received from people under 17 doubled as compared to regular times. During the operation, we were even getting calls from children aged 7-10, which usually never happens,” says Dr. Shiri Daniels, executive director of counseling at ERAN.
Calls about trauma and anxiety were higher than normal, yet those relating to suicidal thoughts decreased from an average of 3% to 1%, likely due to people focusing on external threats during the security crisis.
As a rule, times of national crisis or security threats amplify existing anxieties and distress related to daily life, family relations, work and more.
“Emergency situations worsen existing emotional problems and exacerbate feelings of loneliness, especially in people with limited social support systems,” Daniels says.
Rothman says some overhaul bills to be advanced soon if talks with opposition fail
The coalition will advance some of the bills in the highly contentious judicial overhaul plan in the current Knesset term even without the opposition’s approval if no agreements are reached, the architect of the legislative push says.
Speaking with Channel 12 news, Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rothman, the chairman of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, says one of these laws could be a highly divisive bill to grant the coalition complete control over the selection of most judges, which has already cleared all the legislative hurdles besides the final votes.
“I’m convinced that parts of the reform will pass,” he says.
His remark is likely to outrage opposition politicians who have been engaged in negotiations with the coalition on a potential broadly agreed-upon judicial reform formula, though these have reportedly made little headway.
The overhaul ignited major nationwide protests, eventually forcing the government to pause the plan to allow for talks with the opposition.
Rothman adds that “the coalition, without fixing the justice system, won’t be able to survive.” He says the ball “is in the opposition’s hands,” lamenting that their representatives in the talks “don’t want to reach agreements.”
Smotrich defends tax redistribution plan, criticizes ‘harmful’ strike
Opening his Religious Zionism party’s faction meeting at the Knesset, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich attacks municipalities currently striking in protest of his plan to redirect some municipal tax revenues to poorer localities, saying that the strike is the “wanton and irresponsible decision” of certain mayors who cannot handle the government’s financial policy.
“Today, Israeli residents in some cities across the country have suffered an unnecessary and harmful strike” as a result of “a number of mayors who are unable to adequately deal with the decision of the Israeli government and the Finance Committee to establish the housing fund,” Smotrich says.
The fund, which will pool a portion of commercial municipal taxes and redistribute money from central, wealthier cities to more remote and less commercially well-off ones, is billed as a way to incentivize housing. Detractors say it unfairly taxes localities that invested in building economic infrastructure, and that it will hurt their ability to provide education, social and other municipal services.
Currently, West Bank municipalities are legally blocked from paying into the fund, but they can benefit from it, Finance Ministry Director General Shlomi Heizler said this morning in an interview with Army Radio.
“The fund is the right thing for the State of Israel and all its residents,” Smotrich says, reiterating that the municipal tax shave will be approved later today as part of the Arrangements Bill accompanying the 2023-2024 state budget, despite vociferous opposition from a number of Israeli mayors and from opposition politicians.
Mayors have attended Finance Committee meetings over the past two months to pressure against the measure, including two stormy debates yesterday and today. The coalition is continuing to push the plan forward and will bring it for a plenum vote next week, according to Smotrich.
The finance minister also pledges to battle against market concentration and monopoly power, two pillars of Israel’s high and rising cost of living. Nevertheless, the state budget does not attack the structural foundation for these issues, for which Smotrich has received considerable criticism.
Man killed in light plane crash in north; 2nd man seriously injured
A man in his 50s has been killed in the light plane crash in northern Israel, having been rescued from the wreckage with no signs of life, the Magen David Adom ambulance service says.
Another man, in his 30s, has been taken to Ziv hospital in Safed in serious and unstable condition with multisystem injuries, MDA says.
Netanyahu says Gaza op boosted deterrence, confirms Flag March will be held as planned
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that his goal in the recent Operation Shield and Arrow in Gaza was to change Israel’s’ strategic position vis-a-vis the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, increasing deterrence.
“Something has changed,” the premier says, referring to Israel’s targeted assassinations of PIJ leaders to gut the organization’s command during the operation.
“Anyone coming to hurt us,” the prime minister says at the outset of his Likud party’s faction meeting at the Knesset, “will [now] better understand the meaning of the words ‘his blood is on his own hands.'”
Israel on Saturday night wrapped up the five-day conflict with PIJ, but the government and security forces are looking ahead to Thursday’s Jerusalem Day, planned, as usual, to be accompanied by a right-wing nationalist Flag March through the capital’s Old City, including its Muslim Quarter — which sparks annual tensions and calls to change its route to avoid disrupting locals’ daily routine. In 2021, the Jerusalem Day Flag March served as a pretext for the Hamas terror group to start an 11-day conflict.
“The flag march will continue as planned, as usual, and on its route,” Netanyahu confirms. The Israel Police similarly confirmed approving the contentious route earlier this week.
Netanyahu points to the 2021 conflict, dubbed Operation Guardians of the Walls, as another link in the “deterrence chain,” this time against Gaza’s ruling terror group, Hamas.
Netanyahu claims that the terror group “has not fired a single rocket into our territory” since that conflict.
Labor’s Michaeli slams tax plan, admits party may have to merge with Meretz in next election
Labor party leader Merav Michaeli joins other opposition heads in lambasting the government’s plan to redistribute local taxes from wealthier municipalities to poorer ones, echoing Yair Lapid’s sentiment that it is “theft.”
At the start of her faction meeting, Michaeli says that if the “outrageous” initiative passes, her party will join a petition against it to the High Court of Justice.
“We won’t let them take the public’s money to use for political purposes,” she says.
Asked by a reporter about Labor MK Gilad Kariv’s call last week for the party to join forces with fellow left-wing party Meretz in the event of new elections, Michaeli says: “There is definitely a need to find a different way to run in the next election. I am checking and speaking about this with various officials.”
Michaeli has faced intense criticism for refusing to merge the parties ahead of last year’s election, despite efforts to bring the two struggling parties together. Meretz, which ran independently, fell just below the electoral threshold, essentially stripping four Knesset seats from the bloc opposed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and solidifying the victory for the latter’s hard-right coalition.
Gantz decries state budget as catering only to sectors represented in the coalition
National Unity party chief Benny Gantz attacks the proposed state budget as “a partition plan,” discriminating between the sectors of society represented by the current coalition parties and the rest of Israel’s citizens.
This is “a budget that is solely aimed at separating those who have representation in the coalition from those who do not,” he says. “Instead of being called a state budget, it should be called a coalition budget.”
In particular, Gantz slams the coalition’s plan to transfer municipal taxes from wealthier local authorities to other ones as an “outrageous injustice” that will have to be “paid for by residents of south Tel Aviv,” generally considered to be a poorer section of the wealthy city.
The opposition party chief says that the budget is another example of what he has branded Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government’s divisive style: “This government divides us and functions as the government of half the people.”
The most divisive issue in Israeli politics this year has been the government’s attempt to constrain judicial power. The centrist party head says he continues to support ongoing dialogue to reach a broadly accepted reform, after a lawmaker from his party was recently criticized for hailing an alleged “victory” over the coalition in one part of the talks.
Gantz says he sees the ongoing negotiations hosted by President Isaac Herzog as “of utmost importance to democracy, to our resilience, to our security.”
“We hope and labor to make progress in them, and remember all the time that reaching agreements that will preserve democracy is critical,” he says, warning that “if anyone plays games, they will harm the citizens of Israel, and they will bear responsibility and the consequences.”
Gantz says that Israel’s strong, independent judiciary is an integral part of its perceived successes in the recent Operation Shield and Arrow against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group in Gaza. In particular, he points to “constitutional and legal” cover for using the Iron Dome air defense and implementing targeted assassinations, as well as preserving the ability to launch a surprise attack by obtaining the attorney general’s approval, rather than convening a cabinet meeting.
The former defense minister also offers backhanded praise for Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for “allowing the security forces to act responsibly” and “not as demanded by the opposition in the coalition” — presumably referring to the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, which before the operation had threatened to bolt the coalition if its Gaza policies weren’t made more aggressive.
In first since 2001, FM Cohen meets Swedish counterpart in Stockholm, hails improved ties
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen meets in Stockholm with his Swedish counterpart Tobias Billström, the first such visit by Israel’s top diplomat in 22 years.
According to the Israeli readout, the meeting focused on the noticeable positive change in Sweden’s approach toward Israel.
“We are opening a new page in relations between Sweden and Israel after years in which Sweden had a critical posture toward Israel,” says Cohen. “The visit in Stockholm, the first for an Israeli foreign minister since 2001, signals a change in the direction of ties between the countries.”
A number of Swedish political parties have called for moving the country’s embassy to Jerusalem, and its parliament unanimously passed a measure urging the government to brand the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization.
Sweden holds the EU presidency and is actively working to join NATO. Israel sees an opportunity for its defense technology to play a key role in Sweden’s military build-up in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Lapid says government plan to redirect local taxes is ‘stealing our money’
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid chastises as “theft” a government plan to transfer municipal tax income from wealthier cities to poorer ones, especially those far from Israel’s center.
At the opening of his Yesh Atid faction meeting, Lapid claims that “this government has decided to steal our property tax money… The government is coming to municipalities whose sole misdeed is being properly managed and having residents who work and pay taxes, and confiscating their money.”
Lapid argues that the plan is aimed at redirecting funds away from supporting kindergartens, public transportation and garbage disposal, to benefiting the “friends” of Shas party leader Aryeh Deri and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich.
Lapid claims the new government has been “destroying the economy” by raising stipends to Haredi men “to make sure they don’t join the workforce” and by “funneling billions to Smotrich’s friends in [West Bank settler] outposts.”
Lapid says his party supports the strike announced by some municipalities over the plan.
Lapid also says he wants Yesh Atid MK Karine Elharrar to be the opposition’s representative on the Judicial Selection Committee, which is reportedly set to be formed soon, but that the opposition still needs to meet on the matter. Coalition sources have indicated that they are weighing not appointing any opposition lawmaker to the committee at all, despite this being customary — though not mandatory.
Light plane crashes in north; 2 people seriously injured
A light plane has crashed in an open area between the northern towns of Elifelet and Tuba Zangariya, the Magen David Adom ambulance service says.
MDA sends a helicopter to the scene, with paramedics reporting there are two people seriously injured in the incident, one of whom is unconscious and both of whom are trapped in the wreckage.
Back in Arab League after 12 years, Syria urges group to invest in war-torn country
Syria calls on Arab countries to invest in the war-torn nation, now again a member of the Arab League. The appeal from Syria’s economy and trade minister comes during an economic conference in Saudi Arabia, ahead of a league summit in the kingdom.
“We invite you to participate in investing in Syria, where there are important opportunities and promising horizons,” says the Syrian minister, Mohammed Samer al-Khalil, as he addresses the opening session of the conference in Jeddah.
The 22-member Arab League agreed earlier this month to reinstate Syria, ending a 12-year suspension and taking another step toward bringing Syrian President Bashar Assad, a long-time regional pariah, back into the fold.
However, crippling Western sanctions against Assad’s government remain in place and could prevent oil-rich Arab countries from rushing to invest in Syria — or lead to a quick release of reconstruction funds in the war-battered country.
Germany charges 4 members of far-right group that tried to kill left-wing extremists
German authorities have filed charges against four alleged members of a far-right group that aimed to kill left-wing extremists, following an investigation targeting several organizations, prosecutors announce.
The four men, identified only as Leon R., Maximilian A., Eric K. and Bastian A., in line with local privacy rules, are charged with crimes including serious bodily harm, resisting and attacking police officers, disturbing the peace and violating Germany’s weapons law.
The men were detained in central Germany in April and federal prosecutors filed the charges earlier this month.
Prosecutors say the four are leading members of a far-right combat sports group, “Knockout 51,” which holds training sessions at the local headquarters of a small far-right party in the eastern city of Eisenach and aims to indoctrinate young men and train them in street fighting.
The group, which has about 10 active members and has links to far-right players in other parts of Germany, tried to set up a “Nazi neighborhood” in Eisenach and its members injured several people, prosecutors say.
They also allegedly traveled to protests against coronavirus restrictions at which there were clashes with police and counterprotesters, and sought out fights with left-wing activists in the hopes of seriously injuring or killing them.
“Since at least April 2021, the aim of the association has been to kill people from the left-wing extremist scene,” prosecutors say in a statement.
Coalition prepares for all-night Knesset session as opposition readies filibuster
Coalition leaders are preparing for a potential all-night Knesset session, warning the ruling bloc’s 64 lawmakers in a text message to be on deck until the morning.
“At the moment, we estimate the plenum will continue until morning,” reads the message. Parallel to the floor debate, “the Finance Committee will continue voting during plenum time, except when there is a vote in the plenum.”
The Finance Committee is currently working on preparing budgetary legislation, which must be completed on a tight deadline. If the budget doesn’t pass into law by May 29, the government will automatically dissolve.
Long Monday evenings have become a regular feature of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s current government, with the Yair Lapid-led opposition gumming up legislative wheels with filibusters.
The most prominent piece of legislation expected to come to a vote today is a reinstatement of a plan to finalize tax credits for working families in 2024, according to a draft plenum agenda.
The opposition is also expected to pose three no-confidence measures against the government, all of which are expected to be easily defeated.
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