ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 145

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Government-regulated bread prices to be hiked by 4.9% starting Monday morning

Decision by Finance Ministry panel comes despite economy minister’s reported opposition and amid mounting inflation, with interest rate expected to be raised again Monday

Michael Bachner is a news editor at The Times of Israel

Illustrative: A man shops for bread in a supermarket in Jerusalem. (Orel Cohen/Flash90)
Illustrative: A man shops for bread in a supermarket in Jerusalem. (Orel Cohen/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they unfolded.

Pete Brown, co-writer of hits by rock group Cream, dies at 82

British songwriter and poet Pete Brown, who co-wrote “Sunshine of Your Love” and “White Room” for the short-lived rock supergroup Cream in the 1960s, has died. He was 82.

The London-based Brown, who was Jewish, died of cancer late Friday, according to a post on his Facebook page.

A poet who worked in the same circles as Allen Ginsberg and Spike Milligan, Brown was asked by drummer Ginger Baker to help write songs for Cream, a band he had formed with guitarist Eric Clapton and bass player Jack Bruce.

He also helped write the group’s song “I Feel Free,” and formed a songwriting partnership with Bruce after Cream broke up that lasted more than four decades.

Reports: Israel in ‘advanced’ talks for direct flights to Saudi Arabia next month

Several Hebrew media outlets cite a senior Israeli source saying there are “advanced” US-brokered negotiations with Saudi Arabia to enable direct flights between the countries as soon as next month.

The flights are meant to be to Jeddah, near Mecca, to help Israeli Muslims perform the Hajj pilgrimage.

The unnamed Israeli official is quoted as estimating that there is a 60 percent chance the move will be announced next month.

IDF says soldier injured in Huwara attack, comrade fired toward attacking vehicle

The Israel Defense Forces says a soldier was wounded in the suspected car-ramming attack in Huwara.

The military says that “during routine IDF activity in the area of the town of Huwara, a vehicle accelerated toward an IDF soldier and rammed into him.”

“An additional soldier in the area fired toward the vehicle, which fled the scene,” the IDF says.

The IDF adds that the soldier’s family has been notified.

Beilinson hospital in Petah Tikva says the soldier’s condition is moderate, not light as initially reported.

Government-regulated bread prices said set to rise tomorrow by 4.9%

After a series of recent price hikes for various products amid mounting inflation, Hebrew media reports that the government-regulated prices of bread will rise by 4.9% tomorrow morning.

The Finance Ministry’s prices committee is said to have approved the bakeries’ request, even though Economy Minister Nir Barkat opposed the move.

The price of standard loaf of dark bread will rise from NIS 6.7 ($1.84) to NIS 8.3 ($2.27), and the price of white bread will rise from NIS 5.2 ($1.42) to NIS 6.1 ($1.67), the reports say.

IDF confirms car-ramming attack in Huwara, launches search for fled assailant

The scene of an alleged car-ramming attack in the West Bank town of Huwara on May 21, 2023. (Video screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
The scene of an alleged car-ramming attack in the West Bank town of Huwara on May 21, 2023. (Video screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The Israel Defense Forces confirms reports of a suspected car-ramming attack in the northern West Bank town of Huwara.

Troops are scanning the area for the alleged assailant, who is thought to have fled toward the Nablus area.

One Israeli man lightly hurt in the suspected attack is taken to the Beilinson hospital in Petah Tikvah, the Rescuers Without Borders emergency service says.

The IDF says it will provide further details later on the incident.

One person lightly hurt in suspected car-ramming attack in West Bank’s Huwara

View of the Yitzhar Junction in the northern West Bank town of Huwara, March 5, 2023. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)
View of the Yitzhar Junction in the northern West Bank town of Huwara, March 5, 2023. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)

Medics say they are responding to reports of a suspected car-ramming attack in the northern West Bank town of Huwara.

According to the Rescuers Without Borders emergency service, one person is lightly hurt in the incident.

The driver has fled the scene, the service adds.

There is no immediate comment from the Israel Defense Forces about the incident.

Overhaul compromise talks called off for this week due to packed Knesset schedule

Direct talks between coalition and opposition representatives on a judicial reform compromise won’t be held this week, President Isaac Herzog’s official residence says in a statement.

The President’s Residence says that the sides have requested this in light of the packed legislative schedule this week, which will feature intense discussions and votes on the state budget.

Instead, the president’s staff will hold separate, “intensive” meetings with the representatives of both sides this week, the statement says.

The direct meetings are set to renew next week.

IDF says forces seized assault rifle during West Bank raid

The Israel Defense Forces says troops seized an assault rifle during a raid in the West Bank town of Bal’a, close to Tulkarem.

Palestinians hurled explosive devices at soldiers as they wrapped up the operation, the military says.

No soldiers have been hurt, the IDF adds.

Haredi MK threatens elections if budget demand not met, says Netanyahu ‘not a leader’

United Torah Judaism MK Yisrael Eichler speaks during a session at the Knesset plenum in Jerusalem, June 12, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
United Torah Judaism MK Yisrael Eichler speaks during a session at the Knesset plenum in Jerusalem, June 12, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A coalition lawmaker from the Agudat Yisrael faction of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party threatens to pull out of the government and send the country to early elections if the demand for an additional NIS 600 million ($164 million) as part of the upcoming state budget isn’t met, saying that “we need to reevaluate our entire standing in this coalition.”

MK Yisrael Eichler tells Haredi news site Kikar HaShabbat that his faction first agreed to hold back on its demand for a quick law exempting Haredi men from military service — which the High Court of Justice has repeatedly struck down as unconstitutional — until a so-called override clause is legislated as part of the government’s judicial overhaul plan, which would allow a simple majority of lawmakers to re-legislate the law anyway.

But since the overhaul has now been paused and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly come out against the override clause in its proposed form, Eichler says: “The moment there is no [judicial] reform, no draft [exemption law], and no [additional] budget, we will need to reevaluate what we are doing here.”

Asked by the interviewer what other choices his faction has, Eichler says: “Perhaps there’s a choice called elections.”

Asked if he believes the judicial overhaul will end up passing, Eichler derides Netanyahu, using his nickname: “If Bibi were a leader, he would have passed it. Unless a military coup were done to him — and a military coup was done to him. I can’t judge someone who had a military coup done to him, he’s not in control. But he will need to retake control of matters.”

That is an apparent reference to a threat by many reserve soldiers, including pilots and soldiers in elite units, not to show up for training or even for operational duty if the overhaul passes, saying that would be serving under a “dictatorship.” The protest caused Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to warn of tangible danger to Israel’s security, which ultimately forced Netanyahu to freeze the entire legislative push.

Anti-government rally to be held outside Knesset on Tuesday as MKs vote on budget

Coordinators of the weekly demonstrations against the government’s judicial overhaul say they are escalating their protest against the upcoming state budget, calling for a rally at the gates of the Knesset on Tuesday.

The organizers say they are “stepping up the protest against the government and its misallocation of the state budget.”

Protesters are scheduled to gather at Jerusalem’s Chords Bridge at 6 p.m. on Tuesday and to then march to the Knesset for a protest outside its walls at 7 p.m.

The Knesset is expected to be in the final stages of plenum votes to approve the 2023-2024 budget on Tuesday evening.

Hezbollah stages wargames for media, asserts ‘complete readiness’ to confront Israel

Fighters from the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah carry out a training exercise in Aaramta village in the Jezzine District, southern Lebanon, May 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Fighters from the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah carry out a training exercise in Aaramta village in the Jezzine District, southern Lebanon, May 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

The Lebanese terror group Hezbollah puts on a show of force, extending a rare media invitation to one of its training sites in southern Lebanon, where its forces are staging a simulated military exercise.

Masked fighters jump through flaming hoops, fire from the backs of motorcycles, and blow up Israeli flags posted in the hills above and a wall simulating the one at the border between Lebanon and Israel.

Senior Hezbollah official Hashem Safieddine says in a speech that the exercise is meant to “confirm our complete readiness to confront any aggression” by Israel.

The exercise comes ahead of “Liberation Day,” the Lebanese annual celebration of the withdrawal of Israeli forces from south Lebanon on May 25, 2000, and in the wake of a recent escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza. Palestinian terror group Hamas, which rules Gaza, has long had ties with Hezbollah, and both groups are backed by Iran.

The recent heightened tensions also come months after Israel and Lebanon signed a landmark US-brokered maritime border agreement, which many analysts predicted would lower the risk of a future military confrontation between the two countries.

The Israeli military declines to comment on the Hezbollah exercise.

Sarcophagi from ancient Egypt undergo CT test in Israeli hospital to examine craftsmanship

Sarcophagi used by ancient Egyptians to hold mummies have undergone CT tests in Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek hospital.

The purpose is to identify the steps the artist took thousands of years ago to make the elaborate coffin.

The oldest sarcophagus handed to the Israeli hospital is from about 3,000 years ago.

After backlash, drugstore stops covering up images of women on products

Products at Be Pharmacy with purple stickers covering the faces of women on May 17, 2023. (Twitter account of Stav Ella used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Products at Be Pharmacy with purple stickers covering the faces of women on May 17, 2023. (Twitter account of Stav Ella used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

A Bnei Brak branch of a major drugstore chain has returned products showing women’s faces to its shelves after it was the focus of backlash from women’s rights groups for concealing the faces to comply with rigid ultra-Orthodox modesty customs.

Shufersal Be says in a statement that discrimination against women is against its values. After dialogue with protesters and a local rabbi, “product adjustments and refreshing were carried out at the Bnei Brak branch,” the company says.

Bnei Brak is a largely Haredi city near Tel Aviv.

The gender equality pressure group Bonot Alternativa, which participated in the protest against the firm, praises the decision “to return women to the Shufersal Be branch in Bnei Brak.”

“We will continue to fight for the right of women to be present anywhere in the public sphere and we will fight the trend of exclusion of women.”

Defense Ministry unveils expanded discounts, benefits for IDF reservists

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and the head of the IDF’s Personnel Directorate, Yaniv Asor, announce a new package of discounts and benefits for military reservists, for which NIS 200 million ($55 million) per year will be allocated — 15 times the current amount — according to the Defense Ministry.

Referring to it as “fixing a historic injustice,” the ministry reveals additional discounts on entertainment and goods (doubling the budget for this from NIS 16 million to NIS 32 million), partial subsidies of kids’ summer camps (NIS 1,500 per family) and more discounts on electricity bills (from 5% to 15%) and property tax (from 0% to 10%).

However, the annual grants currently given to the 130,000 reservists won’t be increased.

Morning show host to apologize on air for calling Haredi Jews ‘bloodsuckers’

FILE: Israeli model and TV host Galit Gutman hosts the "Israel Calling" concert in Tel Aviv's Rabin square on April 10, 2018, (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
FILE: Israeli model and TV host Galit Gutman hosts the "Israel Calling" concert in Tel Aviv's Rabin square on April 10, 2018, (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

TV host and model Galit Gutman will apologize on air for calling ultra-Orthodox Israeli Jews “bloodsuckers,” a major network says.

“How much burden can be placed on a third of this country in order to support all of these Haredi bloodsuckers, all these people who suck our blood?” she said Friday on the Channel 12 morning news show during a panel discussion about the government’s upcoming budget, drawing outrage.

The current government has allocated massive funds to the coalition’s right-wing and Orthodox parties as part of the latest budget, drawing criticism from the largely secular opposition parties.

“In light of the severity of Galit Gutman’s words… it was clarified this morning to Galit that remarks of this kind are entirely unacceptable in the broadcasting body,” says Keshet Media Group, the firm that manages the network, in a statement.

“Gutman, who has already apologized for the remarks, has asked to do this on air and to also clarify them to the show’s viewers. It has been agreed that she will do this at the start of her next show this Thursday,” the statement says.

IDF says troops came under Palestinian gunfire overnight in West Bank, nobody hurt

Palestinian gunmen opened fire at a military post near the West Bank city of Tulkarem overnight, the military says.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, troops stationed near the post, close to the village of Irtah, returned fire at the gunmen as they fled.

The IDF says the gunmen’s car was hit by the soldiers’ bullets.

There are no reports of injuries during the incident.

Also overnight, troops detained two wanted Palestinians in the Hebron area, the IDF adds.

Zelensky compares Bakhmut ‘destruction’ to Hiroshima after atomic bomb in 1945

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky compares the “total destruction” of the east Ukrainian town of Bakhmut to the 1945 devastation of Hiroshima after a nuclear strike. Hiroshima now hosting the G7 summit.

“The photos of Hiroshima remind me of Bakhmut. There is absolutely nothing alive, all the buildings are destroyed,” Zelensky says. “Absolute total destruction. There is nothing, there are no people.”

Zelensky says Russian troops are in Bakhmut but city is ‘not occupied’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says that Russian troops are in Bakhmut — which Moscow claims it captured yesterday — but insists the east Ukrainian city is “not occupied.”

“Today [Russian troops] are in Bakhmut,” Zelensky says at a press conference during the G7 summit in Hiroshima. But he adds: “Bakhmut is not occupied by Russia today.”

In cabinet meeting, Netanyahu vows budget ‘will pass’ despite coalition tensions

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Western Wall tunnels on May 21, 2023 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Western Wall tunnels on May 21, 2023 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

During a weekly cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismisses widespread reports of major tensions and ultimatums within the coalition regarding the state budget, declaring that “the budget will pass.”

“I have some experience, I have passed 20 budgets, and last-minute arguments always arise and we will overcome them,” Netanyahu says.

The prime minister claims that the budget is “reasonable” and will level the playing field between Haredi and secular children.

“A Haredi child should not receive less than a secular child. Because a Haredi child is not half a child,” Netanyahu says.

However, according to calculations by the Kan public broadcaster published yesterday, Haredi children in fact receive funding to the tune of 40% more than their secular counterparts.

The Knesset is preparing to vote on the 2023-2024 overall budget, allocating NIS 484.8 billion this year and NIS 513.7 billion in 2024, up from NIS 452.5 billion in 2022. Failure to pass the state budget by May 29 would trigger the automatic dissolution of the government and snap elections.

However, Netanyahu is facing challenges from within his coalition. Far-right National Security Minister Ben Gvir has ordered his Otzma Yehudit lawmakers to boycott Knesset votes in a bid to pressure allied parties to divert more funds to his party’s priorities in the budget. And United Torah Judaism leader Yitzhak Goldknopf has threatened to oppose the budget’s passage unless his demands for an additional NIS 600 million ($164 million) are met.

Cabinet okays NIS 60 million more for upgrading Western Wall and its tunnels

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Western Wall tunnels on May 21, 2023 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Western Wall tunnels on May 21, 2023 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The cabinet approves a budget addition of NIS 60 million ($16.5 million) to upgrade infrastructure and carry out archaeological work at the Western Wall and its tunnels, as well as encouraging visitors and educational trips to the site.

Approving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposal during a meeting held at the Western Wall tunnels, ministers okay a five-year plan for the expansion of funding.

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