The Times of Israel liveblogged Friday’s events as they happened.
UN rights chief slams Israel’s ‘wholly disproportionate’ handling of Gaza riots
GENEVA — The UN human rights chief on Friday slams Israel’s handling of deadly clashes along the Gaza border as “wholly disproportionate,” backing calls for an international investigation.
Addressing a special session of the UN Human Rights Council on the violence in which the Hamas-run health ministry says more than 100 Gazans have died in six weeks, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein warns that “killing resulting from the unlawful use of force by an occupying power may also constitute willful killings, a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
UN peace envoy praises Egypt’s Sissi for Rafah crossing opening
The United Nations envoy for Middle East peace praises Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi for opening the Rafah border crossing with Gaza for the duration of Ramadan.
“This is an important and encouraging step by Egypt and I hope that the security situation will allow for a more regular movement,” says Nickolay Mladenov in a statement.
“Not only will Rafah’s extended opening contribute to de-escalating the explosive atmosphere in the Strip, it will also help ease the humanitarian burden on Palestinians in Gaza,” he adds.
UN rights chief says Gazans ‘dehumanized’ by Israel, ‘caged in a toxic slum’
The United Nations Human Rights Council accuses Israel of keeping Gazans “caged in a toxic slum” during a special session on the Gaza border clashes.
“Israel, as an occupying power under international law, is obligated to protect the population of Gaza and ensure their welfare. But they are, in essence, caged in a toxic slum from birth to death; deprived of dignity; dehumanized by the Israeli authorities to such a point it appears officials do not even consider that these men and women have a right, as well as every reason, to protest,” says Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.
He also says Gazans are “penned in behind fences” and blames Israel’s blockade of the Strip for the deteriorating living conditions in the social enclave.
Israel maintains the blockade is necessary to prevent Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups from smuggling weapons into Gaza that can be used to attack on Israeli territory.
EU launches ‘blocking statute’ to stem effects of US sanctions of Iran
BRUSSELS — The European Union on Friday launches “the blocking statute” process to spare Europeans from US sanctions on Iran as part of efforts to preserve the nuclear deal with Tehran.
The European Commission, the EU executive, says it “launched the formal process to activate the Blocking Statute by updating the list of US sanctions on Iran falling within its scope.”
Hamas chief says group looking to expand clashes to West Bank
The leader of Hamas says the terror group will work to expand the violent border clashes in Gaza to the West Bank.
Speaking at Gaza City’s Great Mosque, Ismail Haniyeh vows the violent “March of Return” protests will continue, after they dropped off dramatically following Monday’s deadly riots.
“The March of Return will continue until it achieves its goals, among them expressing opposition to the Trump [peace] deal,” Channel 10 reports Haniyeh as saying. “The march will not stop until the blockade on the Gaza Strip is fully lifted. We won’t accept half-solutions.”
Haniyeh also addresses reports earlier in the week that Israel warned Hamas it would target its leaders if the terror group does not rein in the clashes.
“These are rumors that don’t scare us. We grew up on the values of martyrs. Our blood — the commanders — is not more dear than the blood of the Gazan people,” Haniyeh says.
Liberman vows to defend troops amid calls for probe into Gaza clashes
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman promises to defend IDF soldiers from international investigations, following a damning session of the UN Human Rights Council earlier in the day.
“Dear soldiers, just as you guard us from Hamas terror, we will protect you from international inquiries and hypocritical gangs that operate against Israel,” Liberman says in a tweet.
— Judah Ari Gross
Reports say explosions heard at Syrian air force base
Syrian state media reports that large explosions were heard coming from the Hama military air base, in northwestern Syria.
There are no immediate claims about who is responsible for the blasts.
On April 29, the Hama air base was struck in an Israeli air raid, reportedly killing at least 26 fighters, mostly Iranians.
— Qalaat Al Mudiq (@QalaatAlMudiq) May 18, 2018
— Judah Ari Gross
Police bust East Jerusalem firebomb cell
Police announce the arrest of four suspects from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya for hurling Molotov cocktails at Border Police officers and a nearby hospital.
The suspects, three minors from Issawiya and an Israeli citizen, were behind the burning of a Border Police post outside Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus, police say. Officers were not in the post when it was targeted.
Authorities say two of the suspects were also involved in other attacks on police in the neighborhood, which included throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails.
An indictment filed at the Jerusalem District Court accuses the suspects of weapons production and possession, rioting, attempting to attack a police officer and attempted arson.
Police say a civil suit may also be filed against the suspects over damages caused in the attacks.
Israeli envoy: Calls for probe into Gaza clashes embolden Hamas
The Israeli representative at the UN Human Rights Council says the organization’s call for an inquiry into Israel’s handling of clashes on the Gaza border emboldens Hamas.
“What this Special Session has already succeeded in doing is to empower Hamas and reward its terror strategy and its use of civilians as human shields to advance its terror activities against the citizens of Israel,” says Aviva Raz Shechter, Israel’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva.
She says calls for Israeli restraint will provoke further Hamas to engage in further violence, in turn endangering Palestinians.
“It is Israel, certainly not Hamas, which makes a real effort to minimize casualties among Palestinian civilians… the IDF took all available precautionary measures and has warned residents of the danger they would face should they engage in violent riots,” Raz Shechter says.
“But Hamas urged them to be on the front line as human shields, hiding terrorists and endangering their lives,” she adds.
40,000 West Bank Palestinians visit Jerusalem for Ramadan prayers
Some 40,000 Palestinians travel to Jerusalem from the West Bank for Ramadan prayers, the army says, while another 6,000 Palestinians pray at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron on the first Friday of the Muslim holy month.
The IDF says Central Command head Nadav Padan, as well as other senior commanders in the West Bank, tour the Rachel and Qalandiya crossings. It says there have been no unusual events.
“IDF troops are deployed in reinforced numbers and are operating along with the Shin Bet, Civil Administration, Border Police and Israel Police in order to allow the Ramadan prayers, as well defending communities and roads and preserving order and security in the area,” the army says.
UK ex-colonel blasts UN rights council for ignoring Hamas role in Gaza clashes
A formal colonel in the British military blasts the UN Human Rights Council for criticizing Israel’s handling of deadly clashes on the Gaza border while ignoring Hamas’s role in the violence.
“I commanded British troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Balkans and Northern Ireland, and served with NATO and the United Nations. I have come straight from the Gaza front line to share my assessment,” Richard Kemp says at a special session of the organization on the Gaza riots.
“Based on what I observed, I can say that everything we just heard here is a complete distortion of the truth,” he adds. “The truth is that Hamas, a terrorist organization that seeks the destruction of Israel and murder of Jews everywhere, deliberately caused over 60 of its own people to get killed.”
Kemp, who is speaking on behalf of UN Watch, accuses the council of being “complicit in further bloodshed” for ignoring Hamas’s use of human shields and attempts to carry out attacks during the clashes.
“I ask every country in this council: You have all been telling us that Israel should have reacted differently. But how would you respond if a jihadist terror group sent thousands to flood your borders, and gunmen to massacre your communities?” Kemp asks the council
He says Israel’s approach to the riots saved Palestinian lives, as the army would have been forced to adopt a tougher response if Hamas terrorists had breached the border and threatened Israeli citizens.
Thousands mass at pro-Palestinian rally called by Turkey’s Erdogan
ISTANBUL — Thousands of people on Friday mass in Istanbul for a rally called by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to show solidarity with the Palestinians and condemn Israel for its response to Hamas-led clashes on the Gaza border, an AFP correspondent says.
Large crowds throng the massive Yenikapi meeting area on the shores of the sea of Marmara under the slogan “Curse the oppression, support Jerusalem,” ahead of an address by Erdogan.
Demonstrators hold Palestinian and Turkish flags and brandish slogans like “Jerusalem is our red line.”
The rally comes hours ahead of an extraordinary summit meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) also called by Erdogan to denounce Israel’s handling of the Gaza clashes and the moving of the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Some of the leaders and ministers set to attend the summit are present at the rally, including Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.
“We are calling on the world and say ‘Israel, America and Zionism, you all dragged humanity into chaos,'” says protestor Levent Ayaz.
“With God’s permission, Jerusalem belongs to us and is the capital of Islam as long as this ummah (Islamic community) exists,” he adds.
Active shooter reported at Texas high school
SANTA FE, Texas — Law enforcement responds to a high school near Houston after an active shooter was reported on campus Friday, with at least one student saying she saw a man with a gun enter her classroom and start shooting as the class evacuated.
The Santa Fe school district issued an alert around 8 a.m. local time, saying Santa Fe High School was on lockdown. Galveston County sheriff’s Maj. Douglas Hudson says units were responding to reports of shots fired, but says he had no immediate details on whether anyone had been hurt.
One student tells Houston television station KTRK in a telephone interview that a gunman came into her first-period art class and started shooting. The student says she saw one girl with blood on her leg as the class evacuated the room.
“We thought it was a fire drill at first but really, the teacher says, ‘Start running,'” the student tells the television station.
The student says she didn’t get a good look at the shooter because she was running away. She says students escaped through a door at the back of the classroom.
Authorities have not yet confirmed that report. Aerial footage from the scene shows students standing in a grassy field and three life-flight helicopters landing at the school.
UN rights council approves probe into Israeli response to Gaza clashes
The United Nations Human Rights Council approves a commission of inquiry to investigate Israel’s handling of clashes on the Gaza border and alleged human rights violations in the Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Twenty-nine countries on the rights council vote to approve the probe, including China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, while 14 countries abstain.
Only the United States and Austria vote against the resolution.
@UN_HRC just approved resolution A/HRC/S-28/L.1 "Violations of International Law in the context of large-scale civilian protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem", deciding to dispatch an international commission of inquiry Yes 29/ No 2 /Abs 14 🇵🇸 pic.twitter.com/DY4OHN9jOq
— Palestine PLO-NAD (@nadplo) May 18, 2018
Foreign Ministry slams ‘hypocrisy and absurdity’ of UN rights council
The Foreign Ministry rebukes the UN Human Rights Council for approving a probe into Israel’s handling of deadly clashes on the Gaza border, saying it proves the organization is anti-Israel and rife with “hypocrisy and absurdity.”
“It is clear to all that the purpose of the council is not to investigate the truth but harm Israel’s right to self-defense and demonize the Jewish state,” it says in a statement.
The Foreign Ministry rejects claims Israel violated international law in its response to the violent protests and notes the role the Hamas terror group played in organizing the riots.
“Israel is acting legally and correctly in defending its sovereignty and preventing the mass storming of its borders in order to kill Israelis and carry out terror attacks, all under the Hamas terror group’s leadership,” it says.
“Israel will continue to defend itself and its citizens from terror and international bodies that are trying to harm its right to defend itself from terror,” the Foreign Ministry adds.
Justice minister: UN Gaza probe encourages Hamas terror
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked accuses the United Nations Human Rights Council of encouraging the Hamas terror group after it approved a probe into Israel’s handling of deadly clashes on the Gaza border.
“The HRC doesn’t care about human rights. Instead of criticizing Iran, Syria and Hamas for their human rights violations, the Council prefers to attack and criticize Israel — the only democracy in the Middle East,” she tweets.
Shaked says the commission of inquiry approved by the council “plays directly into the hands of Hamas, reinforcing and encouraging terrorism.”
Deputy FM condemns rights council Gaza probe, says Israel won’t cooperate
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely condemns the United Nations Human Rights Council for approving an inquiry into Israel’s handling of deadly clashes on the Gaza border, saying Israel will not cooperate with the probe.
“The UN Human Rights Council prefers to back Hamas instead of supporting Israel’s right to defend itself from terror,” tweets Hotovely.
“We have no intention of cooperating with an international investigative committee that wants to dictate results without a connection to facts,” she adds.
Numerous fatalities reported in Texas school shooting
Several people are killed Friday in a shooting at a high school in Texas, US media report, as President Donald Trump says the situation is “not looking good.”
“School shooting in Texas. Early reports not looking good. God bless all!” Trump tweets.
A reporter for local network KHOU cites three sources saying that at least eight students at Santa Fe High School were killed. CNN reports “multiple fatalities,” citing unnamed sources.
8 Kosovo Albanians jailed for foiled attack on Israeli soccer team
PRISTINA, Kosovo — A Kosovo court sentences nine Albanians, eight to jail, for planning a foiled attack against the Israeli national soccer team during a 2016 qualifying World Cup match in neighboring Albania.
Pristina court Judge Hamdi Ibrahimi on Friday sentences the leader of the group, Visar Ibishi, to 10 years in jail. Seven others get between 1-1/2 to 6 years imprisonment. One is slapped with a 2,500-euro ($2,950) fine.
The planned attack in November 2016 was said to have been coordinated by two Albanians in Syria fighting with the Islamic State jihadist group.
Police found explosive devices, weapons, electronic equipment and extremist religious literature at their homes.
Kosovo authorities say about 180 citizens are still active with extremist groups in Syria and Iraq.
Gazans throw rocks, burn tires in fresh border clashes
Some 1,000 Palestinians are taking part in clashes on the Gaza border, the army says, with demonstrators burning tires and throwing rocks at troops.
The IDF says soldiers are using riot dispersal means to quell the protests and using live fire in accordance with army regulations.
There were no immediate reports of injuries from Gaza.
This week’s clashes, the first since the violent “March of Return” protests reached their peak Monday, were much smaller than past weeks and come amid a heatwave and at the start of the Muslim fast of Ramadan.
Netanyahu accuses ‘hypocritical’ UN rights council of backing terror
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accuses the United Nations Human Rights Council of supporting terrorism after the organization approved a probe into Israel’s handling of deadly clashes on the Gaza border.
“There is nothing new under the sun,” Netanyahu says in a statement.
“The organization that calls itself the Human Rights Council again provided it is a hypocritical and biased body whose purpose is to harm Israel and back terror, but mostly it proved it is irrelevant,” he adds.
Netanyahu says the vote’s outcome was determined in advance due to the council’s “automatic anti-Israel majority.”
“The State of Israel will continue to defend its citizens and soldiers,” he says.
7 wounded Gazans travel to Jordan for treatment
Seven Palestinians with Jordanian citizenship wounded in clashes on the Gaza border are transferred to Jordan for treatment, the army says.
The seven exit Gaza through the Erez border crossing, where they are picked up by Jordanian ambulances who travelled earlier in the day through the Allenby Crossing.
The army says the move was coordinated by the military liaison to the Palestinians and came at the request of Jordan’s King Abdullah II.
Separately, three trucks carrying medical supplies enter Gaza through the Erez crossing.
“The IDF allows the transfer of humanitarian aid to the residents of the Gaza Strip on a regular basis and will continue to do,” it says.
Hamas, the terror group that rules Gaza, on Tuesday refused to accept two shipments of Israeli medical aid.
Turkish PM: Israel ‘imitating Hitler and Mussolini’
ISTANBUL — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday urges the Islamic world to show greater unity in supporting the Palestinians, saying Muslim leaders had failed to overcome divisions to oppose Israel’s “tyranny.”
Erdogan addresses thousands in Istanbul at a rally he personally called, hours ahead of an emergency meeting of Islamic leaders he is also hosting over Israel’s handling of deadly clashes on the Gaza border.
The Turkish strongman has reacted with unbridled fury to the reported deaths of 60 Palestinians Monday during the border riots, as well as the move of the US embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“The time has come to stand against Israel’s tyranny,” Erdogan tells a sea of protesters waving Turkish and Palestinian flags.
“I invite all Muslims and all humanity to take action… against those who drag our region and the world into catastrophe with their religious fanaticism,” he adds.
In a hard-hitting speech before Erdogan’s address, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim claimed Israel was “imitating Hitler and Mussolini” by occupying Palestinian territory and disregarding international law.
56 Palestinians said hurt in Gaza border clashes
The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says 56 people were injured in today’s border clashes.
It does detail the circumstances of their injuries.
Earlier, the IDF said 1,000 Palestinians rioted along the border, burning tires and throwing rocks at troops.
Erdogan likens Israeli ‘brutality’ in Gaza to Nazi murder of Jews
ISTANBUL — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday compares Israel’s actions against the Palestinians in Gaza to the Nazi persecution of the Jews in World War II.
“There is no difference between the atrocity faced by the Jewish people in Europe 75 years ago and the brutality that our Gaza brothers are subjected to,” he tells a summit of Islamic leaders in Istanbul.