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After leaving coalition, Meretz MK says will vote her ‘conscience’ on new elections

But Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi also suggests she could back government ‘from the outside’ if it shifts policies: ‘The Arab public is fed up’

Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi. (Ariel Jerozolimski)
Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi. (Ariel Jerozolimski)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they happened.

Lapid and rebel Meretz MK speak, agree to meet Sunday

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid spoke this evening with rebel Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, his office says.

According to a statement, the meeting was held “in a good atmosphere” and the two agreed to meet Sunday “to find a positive solution to the situation.”

US Congress approves new $40 billion aid package for Ukraine

WASHINGTON — US Congress approves a new $40 billion aid package for Ukraine, the latest tranche of US assistance for Kyiv in its fight against Russia’s invasion.

The aid package was roundly approved by the Senate after being adopted by the House of Representatives last week. It now heads to US President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.

Coalition chiefs said pessimistic about government’s survival after Meretz MK quits

Coalition leaders are pessimistic about the government’s prospects of survival after Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi pulled her support for the government, Channel 12 news reports.

“The fall of the government is unpreventable,” unnamed coalition heads are quoted as saying.

The network also says Rinawie Zoabi is due to speak with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid later this evening, suggesting her break with the coalition may not be final.

After leaving coalition, Meretz MK says will vote her ‘conscience’ on new elections

Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi. (Ariel Jerozolimski)
Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi. (Ariel Jerozolimski)

Rebel Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi says she quit the coalition after reaching the “point of no return.”

“The scenes in recent weeks [of violence] at Al-Aqsa and at the funeral of Shireen Abu Akleh, for me, were the straw that broke the camel’s back,” she says.

In an interview with Channel 12 news, Rinawie Zoabi suggests could back the dissolution of Knesset but is non-committal on whether she will in fact do so.

“I’ll vote in accordance with my conscience,” she says.

However, Rinawie Zoabi also appears to keep the door open to some sort of cooperation with the coalition.

“I won’t automatically blow up the coalition,” she says.

If Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked and Defense Minister Benny Gantz change their behavior, she adds, “I might support the coalition from the outside.”

“The Arab public is fed up with the behavior of this government,” she says.

Rinawie Zoabi also says the intentions of the coalition’s Islamist Ra’am party and its leader Mansour Abbas are good, and “they want to do good for Arab society.”

“But Jewish politicians [in the coalition] are not ready to see us [Arab legislators] as equals,” she charges.

IDF to hold drill near Gaza border on Friday

The Israel Defense Forces will be holding a drill near the border with the Gaza Strip tomorrow.

During the exercise, some roads will be blocked and military vehicles will be moving through the area, the IDF says, clarifying that the closures will not affect the movement of civilians.

The drill was planned in advance, the military adds.

Likud says will oppose tuition bill for IDF vets unless scholarships fully funded

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud says the party will vote unanimously against a coalition bill to help pay tuition for recently released Israeli troops.

In a statement, Likud says it will only back the proposed legislation if it is amended to fully fund the scholarships of the former soldiers, an offer the faction says the coalition rejected. The party adds it will propose an amendment to add NIS 50 million ($15 million).

“If the coalition shoots down our objection, we’ll oppose the law,” Likud says.

US conservatives open conference in Orban’s Hungary

The chairman of the Conservative Political Action Coalition (CPAC), Matt Schlapp, delivers the welcome speech at the CPAC conference in Budapest, Hungary, May 19, 2022. (Szilard Koszticsak/MTI via AP)
The chairman of the Conservative Political Action Coalition (CPAC), Matt Schlapp, delivers the welcome speech at the CPAC conference in Budapest, Hungary, May 19, 2022. (Szilard Koszticsak/MTI via AP)

BUDAPEST, Hungary — Dozens of prominent conservatives from Europe, the United States and elsewhere gather in Hungary as the American Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, is held in Europe for the first time.

The two-day conference reflects a deepening of ties between the American right wing and the autocratic government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. The burgeoning alliance with Orban has led some US commentators to warn of American conservatives allegedly embracing anti-democratic tactics.

During his 12 years in power, Orban has generated controversy in the European Union for rolling back of democratic institutions under what he calls an “illiberal democracy,” but garnered the admiration of some segments of the American right for his tough stance on immigration and LGBTQ issues and his rejection of liberal pluralism.

Delivering the opening address of the two-day conference, Orban calls Hungary “the bastion of conservative Christian values in Europe,” and urges US conservatives to defeat “the dominance of progressive liberals in public life” as he said he had done in Hungary.

“We have to take the institutions back in Washington and Brussels,” Orban says. “We must find allies in one another and coordinate the movements of our troops.”

Also appearing at the conference in Budapest are several members of Orban’s government and figures from the American right associated with the branch of the Republican party aligned with former US president Donald Trump.

The conference is the American political right’s latest embrace of Orban, whom Trump has lavished with praise. Trump — described by aides as being particularly enamored with dictators and authoritarian leaders during his time in office — endorsed Orban’s bid for reelection and urged Hungarian voters to give him another term.

Deputy minister orders end of Lag B’Omer events at Mount Meron after clashes

Ultra-Orthodox pilgrims clash with police during Lag B'Omer celebrations at Mount Meron in northern Israel on May 19, 2022. (David Cohen/Flash90)
Ultra-Orthodox pilgrims clash with police during Lag B'Omer celebrations at Mount Meron in northern Israel on May 19, 2022. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Deputy Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana announces the end of Lag B’Omer events at Mount Meron after dozens of Haredi men broke through barricades at Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s tomb site and clashed with police.

In a statement, Kahana accuses “groups of extremist fanatical Sicarii” of intentionally sabotaging the festivities. He backs the actions of police, which he says were meant “to protect lives.”

Kahana adds that police are working to wrap up events in the coming hours.

Biden says Finland, Sweden ‘meet every NATO requirement’ as leaders visit US

US President Joe Biden with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, left, and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, right, after speaking in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, May 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
US President Joe Biden with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, left, and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, right, after speaking in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, May 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON — US President Joe Biden hails the “momentous” applications of once-neutral Sweden and Finland to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as the three countries work to address continued opposition from Turkey for the two to join the alliance.

Biden greeted Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson of Sweden and President Sauli Niinistö of Finland at the White House with handshakes and laughter as they meet today for trilateral conversations on the NATO mutual defense pact as well as broader European security concerns. His administration has professed optimism for their applications to join the alliance, which would mark a significant embarrassment to Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.

“Today I’m proud to welcome and offer the strong support in the United States for the applications of two great democracies, and two close, highly capable partners to join the strongest, most powerful defensive alliance in the history of the world,” Biden says after escorting his fellow leaders to the Rose Garden.

“They meet every NATO requirement and then some,” he says, and “having two new NATO members in the high north will enhance the security of our alliance.”

Netanyahu said to know in advance of Meretz MK’s intention to leave coalition

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Knesset in Jerusalem on May 9, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Knesset in Jerusalem on May 9, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Though coalition leaders were caught off guard by Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi’s surprise announcement today that she was quitting the coalition, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu learned in advance of the move, the Walla news site reports.

Citing opposition sources, the report says Rinawie Zoabi spoke in recent days with MK Yinon Azoulay of the opposition Shas party, whom she is close with, about her misgivings and considerations. Azoulay then told Shas leader Aryeh Deri, who in turn updated Netanyahu, according to the report.

Azoulay had reportedly tried on numerous past occasions to convince Rinawie Zoabi to pull her support for the government.

Meretz chief: Coalition’s collapse would be ‘prize’ to Netanyahu, Ben Gvir

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz leads a Meretz faction meeting at the Knesset on February 28, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz leads a Meretz faction meeting at the Knesset on February 28, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Meretz chief Nitzan Horowitz issues his first public response to the resignation of the left-wing party’s MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi from the coalition.

“The dissolution of the coalition would be a prize to [Benjamin] Netanyahu and [Itamar] Ben Gvir and [cause] great damage to all of society — Jews and Arabs,” Horowitz, who is health minister, writes on Twitter.

He also pledges Meretz’s commitment to shoring up the government, which now holds a minority of seats in the Knesset.

“The disputes within the government will be resolved internally,” Horowitz says.

Egyptian activist on hunger strike moved to new prison

CAIRO — Egyptian authorities have transferred a prominent political activist from a maximum-security prison where he was allegedly tortured and denied basic rights to a new correctional facility, his family says.

Alaa Abd El Fattah was transferred from Cairo’s Tora prison complex to Wadi El-Natrun prison in the north of the country, where he was visited today by his family, his sister Mona Seif writes on Twitter.

The transfer comes as Abd El Fattah had been on a hunger strike for nearly 48 days to protest his imprisonment conditions, according to his family. Abdel-Fattah had been serving time in one of Tora complex’s most notorious prisons since his last arrest in September 2019.

“We’re really glad that Alaa Abd El Fattah has been removed from the ‘guardianship’ of officers who bore him a personal hatred. We’re relieved that he is in a place which has some medical facilities,” his aunt, award-winning novelist Ahdaf Soueif writes on her Facebook page.

Abd El Fattah has been constantly denied access to books, exercise time outside his cell, regular visits, and proper medical care, according to his family. He had previously filed several complaints documenting his mistreatment and alleging that he was beaten and humiliated by some prison officers.

Jordanian king to keep ‘delusional’ Prince Hamzah under house arrest

Jordan's Prince Hamzah Bin Al-Hussein, in 2015. (Khalil Mazraawi/AFP)
Jordan's Prince Hamzah Bin Al-Hussein, in 2015. (Khalil Mazraawi/AFP)

AMMAN, Jordan — Jordanian King Abdullah II says his half-brother Prince Hamzah, accused of an attempted coup last year, is in a state of “delusion” and will remain under house arrest.

“A Royal Decree was issued, approving the recommendation of the council formed in accordance with the Royal Family Law, to restrict the communications, place of residence, and movement of Prince Hamzah,” says a statement today from the royal palace.

IDF to practice securing highways from rioting in potential war

A military convoy carrying APCs near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip, on July 19, 2014. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)
A military convoy carrying APCs near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip, on July 19, 2014. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

The Israel Defense Forces will perform a drill on securing the country’s highways amid a simulated war to ensure military convoys can travel safely, The Times of Israel has learned, following warnings of a repeat of ethnic violence that erupted nationwide during last year’s Gaza war.

Military officials have warned that rioting could impede convoys heading toward the frontier and fear such a scenario in a potential conflict.

The outgoing chief of the Technological and Logistics Directorate said in November he was “really concerned” that rioting in Arab and ethnically mixed communities similar to last May has “significant potential to delay the ability to maneuver IDF troops.”

“[We] have learned and drawn conclusions from the past year from Operation Guardian of the Walls, which are now reflected in the exercise,” says Maj. Gen. Uri Gordon, head of the IDF Homefront Command.

Gantz approves home front chief as next head of IDF Northern Command

Major General Uri Gordin, chief of Israel's Home Front Command, speaks during an interview with AFP at the command's operational center in Ramle on October 12, 2021. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
Major General Uri Gordin, chief of Israel's Home Front Command, speaks during an interview with AFP at the command's operational center in Ramle on October 12, 2021. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz has approved the appointment of Maj. Gen. Uri Gordin, the current head of the Home Front Command, to be the next chief of the military’s Northern Command.

Brig. Gen. Rafi Milo who currently heads the IDF Command and Staff College, will be the next Homefront Command chief. He’ll be promoted to the rank of major general along with the new role.

They will enter their roles in the coming months, the IDF says.

Meretz rebel said to indicate she doesn’t plan to bring down government

Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi is asked a question by a reporter outside her home after announcing her resignation from the coalition, May 19, 2022. (Screen capture: Twitter)
Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi is asked a question by a reporter outside her home after announcing her resignation from the coalition, May 19, 2022. (Screen capture: Twitter)

A meeting between Meretz chief Nitzan Horowitz and the party rebel Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi has been pushed off until tomorrow, according to Hebrew media reports, after he was already on the way to her home.

The Haaretz daily says Horowitz and fellow Meretz Minister Esawi Frej turned around after learning that Rinawie Zoabi was headed to give an interview with Channel 12 news.

Both the newspaper and the Kan public broadcaster quote sources saying Zoabi has indicated that despite her resignation from the coalition, she does not intend to bring down the now minority government.

IDF identifies soldier’s gun that may have fired shot that killed Al Jazeera journalist

A man stands next to where Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was fatally shot during clashes between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli troops during a military raid, in the northern West Bank city of Jenin on May 11, 2022. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)
A man stands next to where Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was fatally shot during clashes between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli troops during a military raid, in the northern West Bank city of Jenin on May 11, 2022. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)

The Israeli military has identified a soldier’s rifle that may have killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, but says it cannot be certain unless the Palestinians turn over the bullet for analysis, a military official says today.

The announcement marked a small sign of progress in the investigation into the death of Abu Akleh, who was fatally shot on May 11 amid clashes between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli troops while covering an IDF raid.

Palestinian officials, along with fellow journalists who were with Abu Akleh, have said Israeli troops stationed nearby killed her. The Israel Defense Forces says it cannot be determined who fired the fatal bullet without a proper analysis.

Israel has called for a joint investigation with the Palestinians. But the Palestinians, who have the bullet, have refused, saying they don’t trust Israel. They say they are conducting their own investigation.

The military official stresses that while the source of the shot is still unclear, “we have narrowed down the IDF weapon that might be involved in the fire exchange near Shireen.”

He renews the call for the Palestinians to release the bullet. If they do so, he says, Israel will “hopefully be able to compare the bullet to that barrel and check if there is a match.” He speaks on condition of anonymity under military briefing guidelines.

Ukraine prosecutors seek life for Russian soldier in war crimes trial

Russian soldier Vadim Shishimarin sits in the defendant's box at the opening of his trial on a charge of war crimes for having killed a civilian, in the Solomyansky district court in Kyiv on May 18, 2022. (AFP/Genya SAVILOV)
Russian soldier Vadim Shishimarin sits in the defendant's box at the opening of his trial on a charge of war crimes for having killed a civilian, in the Solomyansky district court in Kyiv on May 18, 2022. (AFP/Genya SAVILOV)

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian prosecutors request a life sentence for the first Russian soldier on trial for war crimes since the start of Moscow’s invasion, an AFP reporter in the Kyiv courtroom says.

A prosecutor asks the judge to “give a sentence in the form of life imprisonment” to 21-year-old Russian army sergeant Vadim Shishimarin, who admitted to killing a 62-year-old civilian in the first days of the Russian offensive.

Dozens break into tomb at Mount Meron

Haredi worshipers who broke into the Mount Meron compound celebrate in a courtyard on May 19, 2022 (video screenshot)
Haredi worshipers who broke into the Mount Meron compound celebrate in a courtyard on May 19, 2022 (video screenshot)

Dozens of ultra-Orthodox men started tearing down guardrails that had been set up in the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai on Mount Meron, prompting officials to shut down entry to the entire site, police say.

The police say the barricades that were torn down were there to separate men from women at the holy site and that a number of women and children who were inside at the time needed to be quickly pulled out to avoid being injured.

Video footage from the scene shows the men violently breaking down the metal barriers, kicking them and occasionally throwing pieces of metal.

“Officers rescued the women and children from the memorial and are working to prevent a stampede and a risk to life,” police say.

“At this stage, all bus service to the mountain has been halted. The public is asked not to try to come to the site,” police add.

Russian deputy FM: Moscow disappointed by Israeli officials’ ‘anti-Russian’ comments

Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov. (Video screenshot)
Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov. (Video screenshot)

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov says that Moscow was “a little disappointed” by recent “anti-Russian” statements by Israeli officials.

“Of course, we were a little disappointed in such anti-Russian statements by a number of responsible persons in Israel, because this does not correspond to the nature of the traditionally friendly relations that we have been building for 30 years since the late 80s,” says Bogdanov in response to a question from the TASS Russian news agency.

The minister makes his comments on the sidelines of the “Russia – Islamic World: KazanSummit 2022” in the Russian republic of Tatarstan.

Bogdanov adds that he expects Israel “to take a more balanced and objective position” on the war in Ukraine, according to TASS.

He also stresses that Russia cherishes the special nature of relations with Israel, especially around the memory of World War II.

“In this regard, we have common positions, and we celebrate Victory Day on May 9, unlike many Western countries.”

Russia’s embassy in Tel Aviv declines to comment.

Germany strips ex-chancellor Schroeder of official perks over Russia ties

In this photo from September 29, 2017, former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder speaks at a briefing in Saint Petersburg, Russia. (Olga Maltseva/AFP)
In this photo from September 29, 2017, former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder speaks at a briefing in Saint Petersburg, Russia. (Olga Maltseva/AFP)

BERLIN — Germany removes official perks accorded to former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, assessing that he has failed to uphold the obligations of his office by refusing to sever ties with Russian energy giants.

“The coalition parliamentary groups have drawn consequences from the behavior of former chancellor and lobbyist Gerhard Schroeder in view of the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” the parliament decides.

“The office of the former chancellor shall be suspended,” it adds.

Meretz faction leader hoping to find way for defector MK to work with coalition

MK Michal Rozin attends a Meretz faction meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on July 19, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK Michal Rozin attends a Meretz faction meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on July 19, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Meretz faction leader Michal Rozin says that she’ll try to find a way to cooperate with the party’s newly defected MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi.

“I intend to do everything in my power to persuade my friend Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi to return to work with the coalition,” a statement from Rozin reads.

“Even if there are reasons to dismantle the government, none of them are better than the terrible alternative. I believe that this government has challenges that can be overcome. The broad interest is to do everything possible to prevent further elections and to block the return of the extreme right to the corridors of power,” Rozin adds.

Shin Bet uncovers alleged Iranian effort to lure Israelis abroad, possibly kidnap them

In this March 31, 2020, file photo, Iran's national flag waves as Milad telecommunications tower and other buildings are seen in Tehran, Iran. (AP/Vahid Salemi)
In this March 31, 2020, file photo, Iran's national flag waves as Milad telecommunications tower and other buildings are seen in Tehran, Iran. (AP/Vahid Salemi)

The Shin Bet security agency says it has uncovered an attempt by Iranian operatives to lure Israeli academics and business people abroad.

The agency says the operatives used spoofed emails, pretending to be academics, journalists, businessmen and philanthropists.

According to the Shin Bet, the operatives attempted to gather information about the Israelis and possibly lure them abroad with the intention of kidnapping or harming them.

In some of the cases listed by the Shin Bet, the operatives invited the potential victims to a conference in Europe.

“It is a well-known method of operation of the Iranian intelligence and security bodies, headed by the Intelligence Organization of the Revolutionary Guards, Quds Force and the Ministry of Intelligence,” the Shin Bet charges.

Meeting Pentagon chief, Gantz urges US-led regional coalition to counter Iran

Defense Minister Benny Gantz meets with his US counterpart Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon on May 19, 2022. (Shmulik Almany/GPO)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz meets with his US counterpart Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon on May 19, 2022. (Shmulik Almany/GPO)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz meets with his US counterpart Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon for talks his office says focused primarily on Iran.

According to a statement from Gantz’s office, the two discussed “the Iranian regional threat,” with Gantz urging a US-led coalition of regional states to counter Iran.

“Iranian agression must be countered in numerous ways, including strengthening the regional coalition led by the US,” Gantz is quoted as saying.

The statement says Gantz and Austin also discussed “the tense security situation in Israel and the operations Israel is carrying out against terror organizations.”

Meretz chief said headed to home of MK who quit coalition

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz leads a Meretz faction meeting at the Knesset on May 16, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz leads a Meretz faction meeting at the Knesset on May 16, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, who heads Meretz, is headed to MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi’s home following her surprise decision to quit the coalition, according to Hebrew media reports.

“I don’t think [her resignation] is reversible… The coalition will continue to survive,” Meretz MK Yair Golan tells Channel 12 news.

When it is put to him that if Rinawie Zoabi and the Joint List all vote with the opposition, there’ll be a majority for the Knesset to dissolve and hold new elections, he says, “I hope those you’ve mentioned will pull themselves together and realize they must vote for this government… or at least to abstain in a vote for the dissolution of the Knesset”

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party will convene this evening to discuss Rinawie Zoabi’s resignation from the coalition.

Hundreds more Ukrainian troops surrender as Red Cross registers Mariupol POWs

In this photo taken from video released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on May 18, 2022, Ukrainian servicemen leave the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)
In this photo taken from video released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on May 18, 2022, Ukrainian servicemen leave the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

KYIV, Ukraine — Hundreds more fighters have emerged from the Mariupol stronghold where they made their last stand and surrendered, Russia says, and the Red Cross is working to register them as prisoners of war, as the end of a key battle in the conflict draws closer.

A monthslong siege of Mariupol that left it in ruins and the drama of last-ditch fighters at a steel plant holding off Russian forces turned the strategic port city into a worldwide symbol of suffering and defiance. With Ukraine saying their mission is complete, the fighters have been told to save their lives — and international attention is focused on how they will be treated.

The Russian military says that a total of 1,730 Ukrainian troops at the Azovstal steelworks have surrendered since Monday. At least some were taken by the Russians to a former penal colony in territory controlled by Moscow-backed separatists, and a separatist official said that those who needed medical assistance were hospitalized.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says that it has registered hundreds of prisoners of war from the plant, starting Tuesday, under an agreement between Russia and Ukraine. The Geneva-based humanitarian agency, whose mission is to ensure the respect of international humanitarian law during conflict, says the registration process included getting basic personal details from the soldiers.

While Ukraine says it hopes to get the soldiers back in a prisoner swap, Russia has threatened to investigate some for war crimes.

Meretz minister says ‘didn’t see any signs’ that MK would quit coalition

Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on July 14, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on July 14, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej says he and other Meretz members were “astounded” by the decision of the left-wing party’s MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi’s decision to quit the coalition.

Frej calls the move “strange” and says he last met with Rinawie Zoabi at the Knesset on Monday.

“I didn’t see any signs of this. I read her letter. It’s hard for us too, but we’re not taking extreme steps,” the minister tells Kan public radio.

He also defends the coalition after Rinawie Zoabi accused it of being too right-wing and ignoring issues important to Arab Israelis.

“This coalition is the best we could have assembled. We have accomplishments: a decline in crime in Arab society, a change in the perception of Jews that an Arab can be a partner in the government,” Frej says.

He also vows that the government, which now holds a minority of Knesset seats, “will not fall.”

Joint List chief cheers Meretz MK Rinawie Zoabi for quitting coalition

Joint List leader Ayman Odeh (Hadash) at a Knesset faction meeting on March 7, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Joint List leader Ayman Odeh (Hadash) at a Knesset faction meeting on March 7, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Joint List party chief Ayman Odeh hails Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi’s decision to leave the razor-thin coalition.

In her resignation letter, Rinawie Zoabi slammed the government as too right-wing and said it was treating her community — Arab Israelis — poorly.

“Most of the public wants [Arab-Jewish] partnership. But for that to happen, the sane majority must separate from the extreme right,” Odeh comments.

“We won’t be second-class partners,” Odeh adds.

Iron Dome intercepts ‘suspicious’ aircraft over Gaza — IDF

Iron Dome missile defense system fires interception missiles toward incoming rockets from the Gaza Strip, May 17, 2021 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Iron Dome missile defense system fires interception missiles toward incoming rockets from the Gaza Strip, May 17, 2021 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Israel Defense Forces says it shot down a “suspicious” aircraft flying over the Gaza Strip.

The UAV was “monitored throughout the incident” and did not cross into Israeli airspace, the IDF says, adding Iron Dome interceptor missiles were fired at the device over Gaza.

Earlier today the army fired Iron Dome missiles at an Israeli drone over the northern border with Lebanon due to mistaken identification. Those missiles missed their target.

Meretz MK has no demands for rejoining coalition: ‘For now, she’s out’

Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi at a Knesset plenum session on February 28, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi at a Knesset plenum session on February 28, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Dissident Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi has no immediate demands or conditions under which she might return to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s minority government, a spokesperson tells The Times of Israel.

“It’s too early to talk about demands. For now, she’s out of the coalition,” a spokesperson for Rinawie Zoabi says.

Rinawie Zoabi — whose refusal to vote with the ailing coalition on key bills had given her colleagues headaches — was set to be shuttled off to Shanghai to serve as Israeli consul in the Chinese metropolis. She withdrew her nomination for the post when she left the coalition, her spokesperson says.

The spokesperson declines to comment on whether Rinawie Zoabi had informed her fellow Meretz members before announcing her resignation.

Another Meretz official tells The Times of Israel that they only learned about the resignation when media reports broke this afternoon.

Meretz MK urges fellow party member Rinawie Zoabi to reverse resignation from coalition

MK Yair Golan attends a committee meeting, at the Knesset, June 28, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK Yair Golan attends a committee meeting, at the Knesset, June 28, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Meretz MK Yair Golan says he had spoken with fellow party member Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi this week and she didn’t give any indication of her pending decision to resign from the Knesest.

“This is evidence of a lack of a basic understanding of politics. I call on her to reverse this fatal decision,” Golan is quoted as saying by the Kan public broadcaster.

Likud hails Meretz MK’s resignation from coalition: ‘Gov’t has no right to exist’

Then-Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin at the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank on March 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Then-Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin at the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank on March 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Lawmakers from opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party cheer the resignation of Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi from the coalition.

“Bennett and Lapid’s failed government has turned into a minority government,” senior Likud MK Yariv Levin says. “Now it’s clear the government has lost its right to exist.”

Meretz MK resigns from coalition, turning government into a minority

Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi attends a Special Committee on Arab Society Affairs meeting, in the Knesset, in Jerusalem on June 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi attends a Special Committee on Arab Society Affairs meeting, in the Knesset, in Jerusalem on June 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi pulls her support from the government, the second coalition member in the past two months to do so.

Her move means a majority of Knesset members now oppose the government, which is in the minority with 59 seats to 61 seats for the opposition.

In a letter addressed to coalition leaders Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Zoabi says the government has moved rightward in recent months. She accuses it of adopting “hawkish stances” on issues critical to Arab society, listing, “al-Aqsa and the Temple Mount, Sheikh Jarrah, the settlement enterprise and the occupation, the destruction of homes and confiscation of lands in Arab communities in the Negev, and of course the Citizenship Law.”

The left-wing lawmaker says the past month has been “insufferable,” citing recent clashes between Palestinians and police on the Temple Mount and the death of an Al Jazeera reporter amid clashes between gunmen and IDF troops during a military raid in the northern West Bank city of Jenin.

“I cannot continue to support the existence of a coalition that in this shameful manner harasses the society I came from,” she adds.

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