The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.
Human Rights Watch sues Israel to block director’s deportation
Human Rights Watch has asked an Israeli court to block the planned deportation of its local director.
Israel this month ordered Omar Shakir to leave the country, claiming he supports boycotts of Israel. The group says that neither it nor Shakir, a US citizen, support boycotts and accuses Israel of trying to muzzle criticism of its human rights record.
Wednesday’s lawsuit also accuses Israel of improperly enforcing an anti-boycott law. It says the law, used to prevent boycott activists from entering the country, does not apply to people who already are in the country with valid visas.
“This outcome is blood-curdling as it means the creation of databases on the political views, opinions and statements of civilians,” the suit says.
Shakir has been ordered to leave by midnight next Monday.
Netanyahu shows off Iran drone remains to Vice
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is showing off an Iranian drone shot down by Israel, three months after the UAV’s incursion sparked massive Israeli airstrikes in Syria and the downing of an Israeli F-16.
Netanyahu showed the remains drone to Vice News owner Shane Smith, displaying the full aircraft — or what is left of it — for the first time since it was show down on February 10, in a clip released by the outlet ahead of the interview’s broadcast on HBO later today.
Israel claims the drone was armed, though Netanyahu, who used a wing as a prop during a speech to the Munich Security Conference in February, only points out the wings to Smith.
Two women in critical condition after Tiberias stabbing
Two women have been found with serious stab wounds at an apartment in the northern city of Tiberias, police say.
The women, apparently a mother and daughter ages 50 and 20, are in critical condition.
Police say the motive in the stabbing is not clear.
Netanyahu thanks Guatemalan president for embassy move
Meeting with Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanks him for being the second to open an embassy in Jerusalem.
“Guatemala was with us at the start, and Guatemala is with us today,” Netanyahu says, referring to the country being the first to open an embassy in Jerusalem in 1959, before moving it to Tel Aviv in 1980.
Morales calls the opening the start of “a new era” in ties between the countries and expresses hopes for stronger bilateral relations.
Top Sunni cleric in Lebanon urges jihad over US embassy move
A senior Sunni cleric in Lebanon has called on all Muslims to wage jihad, or holy war, in support of the Palestinians after the US decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Mohammed Rashid Kabbani, the former top Sunni religious authority, or mufti, in Lebanon, also said it is not sanctioned religiously for the Palestinians or any Arab or Muslim country to “surrender, reconcile or make peace deals or give up any inch” of historic Palestine.
Kabbani, who still has clout in the community, also said it is not acceptable for them to “recognize so-called Israel.”
Kabbani’s comments appear to be a jab at US plans for a peace deal. They are reportedly supported by Saudi Arabia, which has used its control of holy sites in Mecca and Medina to brand itself the protector of Islam around the world, and which has special clout among Sunnis.
Iranians rage against Israel, US over embassy move, Gaza deaths
Hundreds of hard-line Iranian students have gathered in front of the former US embassy to show their anger over the deaths of some 60 Palestinians along the Gaza border on Monday.
They condemn the United States for its support of Israel and burned flags of both countries, shouting “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has condemned the killing of Palestinians by Israel, saying “Palestinians are fighting for their homeland.”
Rouhani, according to a report from state TV’s news website, also says Iran will always support Palestinians’ rights, according to state TV.
“We will always stand against aggressors and oppressors and believe that the ultimate victory belongs to the oppressed and Palestinians,” he says.
Rouhani also says Iran won’t give in to US sanctions after Washington pulled out of the nuclear deal.
“They think they can make the Iranian nation surrender by putting pressures on Iran, by sanctions and even threats of war… The Iranian nation will resist against the US plots,” he says according to Reuters, quoting state TV.
— with AP
Palestinians recall envoys from Europe for attendance at embassy move shindig
The Palestinians envoys to Romania, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria have been recalled to Ramallah after ambassadors from the EU countries attended an Israeli reception marking the US embassy’s move to Jerusalem, the PA said Wednesday.
The statement from the PA’s foreign ministry said the EU nations’ ambassadors had attended the reception on Sunday, the day before the US opened its Israel embassy in Jerusalem.
The embassy move and Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has deeply angered Palestinians, who see the Israeli-annexed eastern sector of the city as the capital of their future state.
On Tuesday, the PLO recalled its ambassador to Washington over the move.
— with AFP
Israeli envoy to Luxembourg summoned for reprimand
Israeli ambassador Simona Frankel has been summoned by Luxembourg for admonishment, Israel’s Foreign Ministry says.
On Tuesday, Frankel, who is also envoy to Belgium, was called in by Brussels for a dressing down over comments she made on a local radio station claiming all Gazans who had been killed in Monday’s violence had been terrorists.
It’s not immediately clear if Luxembourg has summoned Frankel for the same reason. The ministry says it will provide details later.
US holding out hope to salvage Trump-Kim summit
The White House is “still hopeful” the summit between North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump will proceed despite Pyongyang’s threat to cancel it, spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Wednesday.
“We’re still hopeful that the meeting will take place and we’ll continue down that path,” Sanders told Fox News. “At the same time … we’ve been prepared that these might be tough negotiations.”
Argentina-Israel friendly reportedly up in air over security jitters
Israel’s upcoming friendly soccer match with Argentina’s national team is in jeopardy after players have reportedly balked at traveling to the Jewish state for the game over security fears.
According to reports in Israeli media, organizers are considering moving the game, meant to be the squad’s last practice before the World Cup, from Jerusalem to Spain. Argentinean President Maricio Macri is also reportedly considering canceling his trip to Israel for the game.
An Israeli organizer tells the Ynet news website that the reports are false and the June 9 game is still on.
Although meaningless, the match against Lionel Messi-led Argentina, among the world’s best teams, is hotly anticipated in Israel.
Paris-area synagogue nixes event with chief rabbi ahead of anti-Israel protests
(JTA) — A synagogue in a southern suburb of Paris canceled an event featuring the city’s chief rabbi.
The Yaguel Yaacov synagogue in Montrouge does not give a reason for nixing the event with Rabbi Michel Gugenheim, but it comes amid fears of anti-Semitic violence at anti-Israel protests in and around Paris.
The event planned for this evening was postponed abruptly hours before it was scheduled to begin. The Consistoire, French Jewry’s organization responsible for religious services, sent out an email to all of the recipients of its correspondence telling them the event had been postponed indefinitely.
Contacted by JTA, a Consistoire spokesperson and the spokesperson of the Jewish community of Montrouge decline to divulge any information regarding the reason for the cancellation.
Other communal events are scheduled to take place as planned, including a lecture by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein this evening at a hotel in central Paris that is being organized by the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities.
Currently, an anti-Israel protest rally is planned for this evening at Republique Square, which is located about a mile away from the hotel where the CRIF event is scheduled to take place.
Another rally is being organized in the northern suburb of Stains, by its mayor, Azzedine Taibi.
Gaza protest organizers reject Israeli medical aid
The Hamas-led organizers of the Palestinian protests along the Gaza border have rejected a shipment of medical aid from Israel — despite widespread shortages of key supplies in the wake of deadly violence this week.
The Supreme Committee of the Great Return March said Wednesday the Palestinians would not accept medicine “from the murderers of our people.”
It accused Israel of “trying to improve its blackened image.”
The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says 60 people were killed and over 2,700 wounded by Israeli fire and riot dispersal methods Monday in the deadliest day of cross-border violence since a 2014 war.
Israel has accused Hamas — a terror group sworn to Israel’s destruction — of encouraging protesters to storm the border fence, and using the demonstrations as cover to carry out attacks. Israel said 24 of those killed were members of terror groups.
The committee says protests will resume on Friday.
EU’s Juncker says all efforts needed to keep nuke deal alive
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says all efforts must be made to keep the Iran nuclear agreement alive despite the US pullout because “to end the deal would gravely threaten the peace and security in this tumultuous region.”
Juncker was heading for Sofia, Bulgaria, for a summit with the 28 European Union leaders, hoping to forge a common stance on the agreement and the threat of US sanctions which could hurt EU companies.
“I want us to agree on a common stance on our relations with the United States and its relations with Iran,” hoping to stave off a negative impact of any possible US sanctions, Juncker says.
“Our means are there and we will use them, but don’t fool ourselves our means are limited,” he adds.
Senior Palestinian official blasts Guatemala over embassy move
Chief Palestinian neogitator Saeb Erekat is slamming Guatemala for moving its embassy to Jerusalem and recognize the city as Israel’s capital.
“The Guatemalan government has chosen to stand on the wrong side of history, to side with violations of international law and human rights, and to take a hostile step against the Palestinian people and the Arab World,” Erekat says.
“Such an insult against the Palestinian people reflects the insult against millions of Central Americans that have struggled for the values of justice and peace,” he adds, threatening that “appropriate measures will be taken.”
Hamas leader says 50 Gazans killed were members of group
A Hamas official says in an interview that 50 of the Gazans killed in Monday’s clashes with Israeli troops were members of the terror group.
Salah Bardawil says of the “62 people martyred, 50 were Hamas.” Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry earlier reported 60 Gazans were killed in the clashes.
IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus shares the interview on Twitter, pointing to it as proof that the so-called peaceful protests were orchestrated by the terror group.
Senior Hamas official sets the record straight on who was killed in last Hamas-orchestrated riots: "50 of the 62 martyrs were Hamas". Take his word for it. This was no peaceful protest. pic.twitter.com/oop2y3oWrB
— Jonathan Conricus (@LTCJonathan) May 16, 2018
“Take his word for it. This was no peaceful protest,” Conricus writes.
Israel earlier said 24 of those killed were members of terror groups, most of them from Hamas. On Tuesday, Hamas named 10 people from the group who were killed in the fighting.
EU head tears into Trump over nuke deal pullout
EU president Donald Tusk has lashed out at Trump over his decision to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal and to impose trade tariffs on Europe, which have caused a transatlantic rift.
Tusk even compared the US administration to Europe’s traditional foes Moscow and Beijing in his broadside, which came as the 28 EU leaders met in Bulgaria to discuss how best to react to Trump. Monday’s Gaza border violence is also expected to be high on the agenda of the meeting.
“Looking at the latest decisions of President Trump, someone could even think with friends like that who needs enemies,” Tusk tells reporters.
“But frankly speaking, Europe should be grateful to President Trump, because thanks to him we have got rid of all illusions. He has made us realize that if you need a helping hand you will find one at the end of your arm,” the European Council president adds.
Homes near Gaza border hit with machine gun fire — reports
Bullets apparently fired from the Gaza Strip have struck a number of homes in the southern Israeli city of Sderot on Wednesday, causing damage but no injuries, according to Hebrew-language media.
In one case, a bullet shattered a window. In others, the rounds smashed into external walls, according to pictures of the houses posted on social media.
Reports indicated the bullets were from machine gun fire.
Police were called to the scenes, sealing off the areas around the homes that were hit as forensic investigators were called in.
The army says it is investigating the reports in order to determine the origins of the gunfire.
Earlier, the army said gunmen in Gaza opened fire toward Israel. The IDF responded by shelling a Hamas post.
Israeli homes in Sderot town have been damaged after faction members fired heavy machine guns in it's direction pic.twitter.com/5lEJizfawX
— Gaza Report (@gaza_report) May 16, 2018
לפחות 6 בתים נפגעו מירי מקלעים מרצועת עזה לשדרות. חלון בית ניזוק pic.twitter.com/4JrhxPO2LX
— matan tzuri מתן צורי (@MatanTzuri) May 16, 2018
— Judah Ari Gross
Home of former Sderot mayor hit by gunfire
Former Sderot mayor Eli Moyal says his house was among those hit by machine gun fire, apparently from Gaza.
“I was at home and suddenly I heard a loud sound. It was scary. I thought something fell. I went out to the yard and saw shrapnel,” he tells the Ynet news site.
IDF: Gazans shot at aircraft, hit Sderot homes
The bullets that hit a number of homes in the southern city of Sderot were the result of gunshots fired by Palestinians in Gaza at an Israeli military aircraft, officials say.
“A short while ago, shots were fired at an IDF aircraft. Rounds hit a number of homes in Sderot,” the city says in a statement.
The army says the bullets were large caliber rounds fired by members of a terrorist group in Gaza.
“The IDF sees this as a serious event and holds Hamas responsible for everything that occurs in the Gaza Strip,” the army says.
— Judah Ari Gross
Israeli journalists attacked in Turkey
An Israeli news crew reporting from Istanbul’s Taksim Square was attacked by several people angry over Israeli military actions in Gaza, Hadashot news says.
Hadashot reporter Ohad Hemo says he and producer Oded Bino were unharmed in the incident.
Hemo tells the broadcaster the incident began when a man noticed him speaking Hebrew and began yelling “murderer, murderer.” Other people surrounded the two, and one man began pushing them.
Hemo said they would report the incident to police.
Facebook’s Zuckerberg agrees to meet European lawmakers on data scandal
Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has agreed to meet with European Parliament members to answer questions after a data harvesting scandal, a top official says.
Senior lawmakers have “agreed that Mark Zuckerberg should come clarify issues related to the use of personal data in a meeting with representatives of the European Parliament,” the parliament’s leader Antonio Tajani says in a statement, adding the meeting could take place “as early as next week.”
Knesset head says Hamas to blame for Gaza deaths
Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein is telling French lawmakers that Hamas is to blame for the deaths of dozens of Palestinians along its border with Gaza this week.
“We’ve been warned for years that Hamas has been planning this kind of attack on the border in order to execute terror activities under the convenient surroundings of manifestations or demonstrations,” Edelstein says during a two-day visit to France.
Edelstein says the protests were “not at all linked” to anger over the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, in wide defiance of its European allies.
“Hamas is not just telling people to go out and demonstrate,” he tells the French parliament’s foreign affairs committee. “They are openly saying, ‘You have to march to Tel Aviv, and Haifa and Jerusalem.'”
Iran, Turkey discuss uniting against Israel and US
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has called for the Muslim world to unite against Israel and the US in a phone call with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“Muslim countries should condemn US and Israeli actions with a united voice,” Rouhani tells Erdogan, according to Reuters, citing Iran’s Tasnim news agency.
Netanyahu hails Morales, says troops keeping Gazan protests down
At an event marking Guatemala’s transfer of its embassy to Jerusalem, Netanyahu tells Jimmy Morales “today you made history.” He adds he will travel to Guatemala soon.
Switching to Hebrew, Netanyahu says today saw relatively few clashes with Palestinians due to the good work of Israeli soldiers.
However, other Israeli officials have actually pointed to Egyptian pressure on Hamas as the reason protests on the Gaza border have fizzled in recent days.
Intelligence Minister Israel Katz told Israel Radio earlier in the day that an Egyptian intelligence chief warned Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh that the protests had to end or Israel would carry out assassinations and Cairo would not intervene.
He added that the intel officer told Haniyeh that Cairo has proof that Hamas was sending innocent people to act as human shields on the border.
He credited the conversation with Haniyeh calling off further demonstrations.
— with Raphael Ahren
Russia: Blasphemous to call slain Gazans ‘terrorists’
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov says it is “blasphemous” to call dozens of “peaceful” protesters killed on the Gaza border by Israeli forces “terrorists.”
“I cannot agree with the fact that dozens of peaceful civilians, including children and infants, who were killed in these incidents were terrorists. This is a blasphemous statement,” Lavrov says at a news conference in Moscow.
Israel alleges that a number of those killed during the clashes were in the midst of carrying out attacks. Earlier Wednesday, an official for the Hamas terror group said 50 out of the 62 Gazans killed were members of the organization.
— with AFP
Gazans fire at troops, IDF destroys Hamas posts in fresh clash
Israeli forces have exchanged fire with Palestinians along the border with southern Gaza for a second time Wednesday, the army says.
Shots were fired at IDF soldiers near the security fence, causing no injuries.
In response, Israeli tank fire destroyed two Hamas observation posts in southern Gaza, the army says.
Earlier, shots were fired at troops on the northern Gaza border, and in response an IDF tank targeted a nearby Hamas position.
Terrorist operatives in the Gaza Strip also fired a heavy machine gun at an Israeli aircraft earlier in the day, hitting houses in the southern city of Sderot. No injuries were reported.
— Judah Ari Gross
Israel refused to let Turks evacuate wounded Gazans — report
Israel’s Channel 10 news reports that Israel refused to allow a Turkish plane to land at Ben-Gurion airport to evacuate wounded Gazans to Turkey.
The channel reports that Israeli officials said the reasons were both diplomatic and security related, and that they offered to treat the wounded at an Israeli hospital or transfer them to the West Bank.
According to the report, Egypt also refused a Turkish request to evacuate the wounded.
Hamas chief says Egypt helping make sure protests don’t morph into war
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Hamas in Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar says Egypt has been in contact with the terror group about making sure clashes with Israel do not descend into full out war.
Sinwar also says Hamas has made clear to international mediators that the group “will not hesitate to use force” should the blockade of the Strip continue.
He says Monday’s clashes, in which 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces seeking to protect the border and quell violent protests, achieved much of their aims, specifically pointing to the boost the group got in international sympathy.
Israel says Hamas organized the protests and used them as cover to carry out attacks against Israel or breach the border fence.
Sinwar also says Hamas was ready to make a deal with Israel over returning three civilians and the bodies of two soldiers several months ago, but Israel cut off the talks.
In Ramadan message, Jerusalem mayor says Arabs secretly happy about embassy move
With Ramadan beginning for local Muslims Thursday, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat releases a video message in which he says the city has made “unprecedented preparations” for the holy month.
He also says many Arab residents of the city were secretly happy with the US decision to transfer its embassy to the city, which he says will help bolster the city’s status and improve quality of life for residents.
“I am sure that many of you were happy too, even if you did not express your happiness in public. The Arab residents of Jerusalem understand more than ever that the transfer of the American Embassy to Jerusalem, along with many other embassies, is great news and a blessing for all the residents of the city, Jews and Arabs alike,” he says.
The American decision has drawn widespread anger from Muslims around the world and in Jerusalem. Several hundred people protested outside the embassy as it was inaugurated Monday.
Arab League plans meet to condemn Israel over Gaza
Arab foreign ministers are to hold an “extraordinary” meeting Thursday in Cairo to discuss the deadly violence on the Gaza-Israel border, the organization says.
Permanent delegates to the Cairo-based Arab League met on Wednesday to prepare for the ministerial session called by Saudi Arabia on “the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people.”
“A draft resolution will be presented” Thursday to foreign ministers, Hossam Zaki, the League’s deputy secretary-general, tells reporters in the Egyptian capital.
He says it will contain “the strongest political positions… in support of the Palestinian resistance and against the American decision” to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Israeli-owned geothermal plant girds for possible lava from Hawaii volcano
A geothermal plant in Hawaii owned by US-Israeli firm Ormat says it is taking precautions over risks lava from the erupting Kilauea volcano may impact the facility.
The plant, Puna Geothermal Venture, was shut down after Kilauea first erupted on May 3, and provides roughly one-quarter of daily energy demand on the Big Island, harnessing the same underground power fueling the volcano.
The firm, founded in Yavne and now based in Reno, Nevada, says there is a low risk of lava flow affecting the plant, but has capped its well and moved flammable material from the site as a precaution.
The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory says an ash plume from within Kilauea volcano’s summit crater has risen as high as 12,000 feet above sea level.
Ash has been wafting continuously from a vent in the crater, Halemaumau, and drifting southwest, causing ashfall and volcanic air pollution to be reported as far as 18 miles away.
— with AP
Sissi warns of ‘some instability’ over US embassy move
Egyptian president Abdel-Fatah al-Sissi is offering a milquetoast warning over the US moving its embassy to Jerusalem, saying it could contribute to instability in the region.
“We have said this issue will have negative repercussions on Arab and Islamic public opinion and leads to a kind of dissatisfaction and some instability, and will have repercussions on the Palestinian cause,” Sissi says in his first comments on the issue.
His comments on Gaza violence also contrast sharply with other countries that have sharply condemned Israel.
“I urge the Israelis to understand that the reactions of Palestinians over this issue are legitimate and that (they) are handled by taking great care for the lives of Palestinians,” he says.
Israeli officials say Egyptian intelligence played a major role in convincing Hamas to tone down mass protests in Gaza earlier this week, reportedly scolding the Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and telling him the terror group would be responsible for the deaths of some 60 protesters.
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