The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they occured.

VP swears in Deborah Lipstadt as antisemitism envoy

US Special Envoy to Combat and monitor Antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt is sworn in by US Vice President Kamala Harris at the latter's office in Washington on May 24, 2022. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)
US Special Envoy to Combat and monitor Antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt is sworn in by US Vice President Kamala Harris at the latter's office in Washington on May 24, 2022. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)

WASHINGTON — Deborah Lipstadt has been ceremonially sworn in as US special envoy to combat and monitor antisemitism by US Vice President Kamala Harris.

The ceremony takes place in Harris’s office across the street from the White House.

In attendance are Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, Sen. Jacky Rosen and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz along with members of Lipstadt’s family.

An emotional Lipstadt holds back tears as she recites her oath of office line by line after Harris.

She is sworn in on a copy of the”US Army Talmud,” which was printed after the Holocaust by a delegation of rabbis from a Displaced Persons camp who saw a need to compensate for the Jewish books of scripture burned by the Nazis. On top of the US Army Talmud is a Book of Psalms that belonged to Lipstadt’s mother.

Al Jazeera journalist was killed in ‘targeted attack’ by IDF troops, CNN suggests

CNN says its inquiry into the death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin several weeks ago has suggested she was deliberately targeted by Israeli forces.

Abu Akleh was shot dead while covering clashes between soldiers and Palestinian gunmen.

In an item headlined, “‘They were shooting directly at the journalists’: New evidence suggests Shireen Abu Akleh was killed in targeted attack by Israeli forces,” the network says it has new evidence to support the claim.

A CNN headline, on the network’s website, regarding the death of Shireen Abu Akleh, May 24, 2022. (Screenshot)

First, using audio from a video of the moment the journalist was killed, the network says forensic audio experts have identified that the shots came from about 200 meters away — the alleged distance between Abu Akleh and IDF forces at the time of her shooting.

Second, it cites Chris Cobb-Smith, a security consultant and British army veteran the network identified as a firearms expert. Cobb-Smith looked at photos of bullet markings left on a tree just where Abu Akleh was hit, and said that they were indicative of controlled, targeted shots rather than stray bullets.

“The number of strike marks on the tree where Shireen was standing proves this wasn’t a random shot, she was targeted,” he said, while noting that evidence of Palestinian fire during the exchanges showed “random sprays.”

A mural of slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh is on display, in Gaza City, Sunday, May 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

And he added that at a distance of 200 meters, there was “no chance” that random fire would leave such tightly knit marks.

“From the strike marks on the tree, it appears that the shots, one of which hit Shireen, came from down the street from the direction of the IDF troops. The relatively tight grouping of the rounds indicate[s] Shireen was intentionally targeted with aimed shots and not the victim of random or stray fire.”

The Israel Defense Forces has said it is investigating whether Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli or Palestinian fire but that it can make no determination while Palestinians refuse to hand over the bullet that killed her for forensic examination.

It has said, however, that any deadly Israeli fire would have been accidental.

An unnamed senior Israeli security official told the network: “In no way would the IDF ever target a civilian, especially a member of the press.”

Bennett: Biden notified me of decision to keep Iran Guards on terror list

In this September 22, 2014 photo, members of the Iran's Revolutionary Guard march during an annual military parade at the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini, outside Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)
In this September 22, 2014 photo, members of the Iran's Revolutionary Guard march during an annual military parade at the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini, outside Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett hails the US for making a final decision to leave the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on a US terror list. He says the US president notified him of the decision recently.

“I laud the US administration, and first and foremost my friend, President Joe Biden, on his intention to leave the Revolutionary Guards where they belong — on the terror list,” he says.

“President Biden is a true friend of Israel who is concerned with its security and continued fortitude.”

He says the IRGC is “the world’s largest terror organization, involved in directing and executing deadly terror attacks and destabilizing the Middle East”

Biden’s decision is thus “correct, moral and just,” he says.

Biden conveyed his decision during an April 24 phone call with Bennett.

The Politico news site first reported on the matter today. An official familiar with the matter confirmed it to The Times of Israel.

Politico cited a senior Western official as saying the IRGC will remain on the terror blacklist, despite the issue being a sticking point in efforts to restore the 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers.

Another source added that the decision was conveyed as absolutely final and that the window for Iranian concessions that would reverse it had closed.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, no. 2 in Bennett’s party, praises the news on Twitter as a “huge achievement” for the prime minister.

Hungary imposes new state of emergency over Ukraine, raising concerns

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has imposed a new state of emergency in the country, citing the challenges posed by the ongoing war in neighboring Ukraine.

Hungary is already under a state of emergency, linked to the COVID pandemic, which is due to expire next Tuesday.

“The world is on the verge of an economic crisis. Hungary must stay out of this war and protect the financial security of its families,” the nationalist leader says on Facebook, in comments that raise fresh concerns about the restriction of rights.

“This requires room for maneuver and immediate action. The government, exercising its right under the Basic Law, declares a state of emergency due to war as of midnight,” Orban adds.

Rules decided under the new law change will be announced on Wednesday, Orban says.

Shortly before the announcement, the Hungarian parliament, which had just been sworn in, amends the constitution to allow for such a measure.

The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (TASZ) denounces the move, saying that “the state of emergency that has become permanent.”

UN Security Council envoys to talk press dangers after Abu Akleh slaying

All 15 ambassadors on the UN Security Council will address an event later this afternoon on protecting journalists in light of the recent killing of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, a spokesman for Ireland’s UN mission tells The Times of Israel.

Abu Akleh was shot in the head during clashes that broke out between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen during an IDF raid in the Palestinian city of Jenin.

The event, organized by Ireland’s UN mission, is not focused solely on Israel and speakers will be highlighting the dangers of reporting worldwide, particularly in Afghanistan and Ukraine. However, the invite mentions Abu Akleh’s killing first. It is also the most recent death of those mentioned.

Palestinians visit the site where veteran Palestinian-American reporter Shireen Abu Akleh was shot and killed, in the West Bank city of Jenin, May 18, 2022. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)

The invite also highlights the killings of Afghan Ariana News anchor Mina Kairi and Reuters photojournalist Danish Siddiqui, which both took place since the Taliban took over Afghanistan last year.

The event is being chaired and moderated by Ireland’s Ambassador to the UN Geraldine Byrne Nason. Several reporters and a UN official are slated to speak on the panel.

Leader of Ukraine’s far-right Azov brigade alive in Russian captivity — wife

The top military commander who fought until last week to keep Ukrainian control of the southern port city of Mariupol is alive in Russian-controlled territory, his wife says after holding a brief telephone conversation.

Kateryna Prokopenko, who is married to Azov Regiment leader Denys Prokopenko, says her husband asked her how she was, but that the line broke off before he could say anything about himself.

She says the phone call was possible under an agreement between the governments of Ukraine and Russia and thanks to the mediation of the Red Cross, which has been visiting some of the Ukrainian fighters who surrendered.

Kateryna Prokopenko, wife of Denis Prokopenko, the commander of the Azov regiment, poses prior to taking part in the television talk show ‘Porta a Porta’ on the Rai Uno channel, on April 28, 2022, in Rome. (Tiziana Fabi/AFP)

Earlier this month, Russia announced its takeover of Mariupol with the surrender of the fighters holed up at the massive Azovstal steel mill.

Prokopenko, who spoke to The Associated Press in Kyiv together with another wife of a soldier, Yuliia Fedosiuk, said that the Ukraine and Russia agreement guarantees proper burial of dead soldiers and certain conditions for the prisoners of war, including allowing them to hold telephone calls with family members a few times per week.

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

The two women said several families had received calls in the past two days. They said they could not reveal more details of the agreement but they were hopeful that the soldiers will not be tortured and that they eventually will “come back home.”

Israel reportedly asks mediators to warn Hamas against firing at Jerusalem Day march

Israel is sending messages to the Hamas terror group via Egypt and Qatar in hopes of keeping tensions from boiling over during a nationalist march through the Old City on Sunday, Channel 13 reports.

Israel argues that the route of the march, through the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, is the same as it has been for years and should not be taken as a casus belli, the channel reports.

It also warns that if Hamas shoots rockets or allows other groups to do so, Israel will be ready to hit back at Gaza.

According to Channel 13, the army believes the event can pass peacefully so long as there are no bouts of serious violence and everyone keeps their cool.

The channel also reports that police have decided to limit the number of participants okayed to traverse the Old City to the Western Wall to 16,000 people. Half the group will march through the Old City via the Damascus Gate, while the other half will go through Jaffa Gate, likely only skirting the Muslim Quarter.

Last year, Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem during the march, sparking an 11-day war between Israel and Gaza-based fighters.

After brouhaha, Regev sorry — that more of her comments were not leaked

Likud MK Miri Regev has offered a not-quite-apology for the lack of comprehensiveness in a recording that leaked of her saying that the party should prioritize bringing down the government over supporting soldiers or victims of rape.

“I apologize on behalf of whoever leaked half of my comments,” she tells Channel 12 after refusing to apologize throughout the day. “I said then that [the coalition] needs our vote to pass sensitive laws, and we need to put a price tag on that.”

MK Miri Regev speaks in the Knesset in Jerusalem, on February 7, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“We need to decide if we are bringing down this coalition or keeping it on life support. It can’t pass any Zionist law without us,” she adds.

Regev had claimed throughout the day that only the mystery leaker “who took my words out of context” should need to apologize. Her comments about the party’s priorities were made amid an internal Likud battle over whether to support a coalition bill that would increase scholarship money for soldiers, an issue most Israelis support.

Channel 13 reports it got its hands on a full recording of Regev’s comments, during which she spoke for some eight minutes, mostly complaining about the fact that the party did not predict the backlash from its refusal to support the bill and pushing for Likud to stick to its guns on not supporting anything from the coalition short of a war declaration.

The fuller recording does not significantly change the meaning of her earlier-reported comments.

Minister asks judge to keep teachers from planned labor sanctions

Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton has asked judicial authorities for an emergency injunction against a planned labor action by the high school teachers’ union.

The head of the union announced earlier that teachers would halt all work outside of normal classroom hours, including scoring finals and handing out grades to students.

“The days when the education system was dependent on the capriciousness of one person who has spearheaded a culture of lies are over,” Shasha-Biton says, according to Hebrew-language media reports.

The partial strike, in protest over the minister’s reforms to matriculation exams, is set to begin on Wednesday.

Germany rebuffs Polish complaints about long wait for replacement tanks

Germany is rejecting suggestions that it is reneging on a promise to provide Poland with tanks to make up for those that Warsaw has delivered to Ukraine.

Polish President Andrzej Duda told German broadcaster Welt that he was “very disappointed” Berlin had not fulfilled its promise on the delivery of Leopard tanks to Poland.

Speaking after a meeting with her Polish counterpart in Berlin on Tuesday, Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock says the issue has been discussed in order to resolve “misunderstandings.”

She says Germany could not supply heavy weapons “at the press of a button” as there were numerous questions to consider, not least what arms are actually available.

Ukrainian tanks move down a street in Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, April 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Poland’s Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau says his country regretted that the situation with regard to arms deliveries to Ukraine was “not as dynamic” as hoped, but acknowledges that “the devil lies in the detail” on the issue.

Poland gave Soviet-designed T-72 tanks to Ukraine with the expectation that NATO, the US and Germany would fill that void.

Germany has agreed to several similar circular swaps with allied countries such as Slovenia and the Czech Republic, who in turn are sending older Soviet-era tanks to Ukraine.

US sanctions target international network of Hamas bean-counters

The US Treasury Department announces that it has sanctioned a Hamas official along with a network of backers to the terror group.

The network is overseen by Hamas’s Investment Office, which manages the day-to-day management of more than $500 million in assets, including firms in Sudan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and the United Arab Emirates. The targeted individuals are being sanctioned by the Treasury Department under a 2001 executive order that allows for the financial holdings of designated individuals or groups to be blocked in order to stem terror funding.

“Today’s action targets the individuals and companies that Hamas uses to conceal and launder funds,” says Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes Elizabeth Rosenberg while in Israel to discuss terrorism financing efforts.

“Hamas has generated vast sums of revenue through its secret investment portfolio while destabilizing Gaza, which is facing harsh living and economic conditions. Hamas maintains a violent agenda that harms both Israelis and Palestinians. The United States is committed to denying Hamas the ability to generate and move funds and to holding Hamas accountable for its role in promoting and carrying out violence in the region,” she adds in a statement released by her office.

The list of sanctioned individuals includes Ahmed Sharif Abdallah Odeh, a Jordanian national who officially headed Hamas’s international investment portfolio until 2017 but remained involved even after stepping down from the post.

He was replaced by Usama Ali, who in 2019 was appointed to Hamas’s Shura Council — a quasi-legislative branch and he later served on Hamas’s Executive Committee, maintaining direct contact with Hamas Political Bureau Chief Ismail Haniyeh, the bureau’s deputy Saleh al-Arouri and others.

Also designated is Hisham Younis Yahia Qafisheh, a Turkish based Jordanian national who served as Usama Ali’s deputy and was involved in transferring funds on behalf of various companies linked to Hamas’s investment portfolio.

Qafisheh has served as a board member at the Sudan-based Agrogate Holding, deputy board chair at the Turkey-based Trend GYO, board chair Sudan-based Al Rowad Real Estate Development, manager at the Saudi real estate firm Anda Company. All four firms have been designated by the Treasury as well.

Hamas’s investment office also covertly held assets in the Algeria-based Sidar Company and the UAE-based Itqan Real Estate JSC, which posed as legitimate businesses but were controlled by Hamas and transferred money to the group and its military wing, the Treasury Department says, justifying its decision to designate the two firms.

Lastly, the US has designated Abdallah Yusuf Faisal Sabri, a Kuwait-based Jordanian accountant who has worked in the Hamas Finance Ministry for several years.

“Since at least 2018, Sabri has managed Hamas’s operational expenses and oversaw the transfer of large sums of money on behalf of Hamas, including transfers from Iran and Saudi Arabia, which he sent to Hamas members, units, and industries,” the Treasury says.

In 2018, Sabri was appointed chair of a key financial committee that likely made him privy to the terror group’s financial planning, investment projects and sources of income, the Treasury says.

Wielding flagsticks, Jerusalem city leaders fight Palestinian near Old City

Jerusalem’s deputy mayor and another city council member scuffled with a Palestinian who attempted to grab flags away from them as they distributed them ahead of Jerusalem Day.

In a video from the scene, Deputy Mayor Arieh King and city council member Yonatan Yosef can be seen chasing a young Palestinian man who grabs a flag away from them.

The two attempt to grab the flag back by hitting him with sticks from other flags; King and the alleged perp end up smacking each other as they fence down the street. While Yosef initially connects, he later only manages to smack a responding cop in the head, who then pushes away the budding politician and takes away his stick.

The Palestinian eventually runs away, as those still at the scene — King, Yosef, the cop and some passersby, argue over who started it and why they let the suspect get away.

Police briefly detain the two lawmakers for questioning, and they also file a police complaint in which they claim that they were also attacked by stones and someone who threw a liquid at them from a passing car, according to Ynet reporter Haim Goldich, who filmed the rumpus.

The incident occurs outside Herod’s Gate, near the Old City’s Muslim Quarter.

King had announced earlier this week that he and Yosef would hand out flags and sticks to anyone who wants ahead of Jerusalem Day, in response to Hamas threats over nationalist hardliners’ plans to hold a traditional “flag march” through the Muslim Quarter on Thursday.

After court ruling, minister calls for ‘serious discussion’ on Temple Mount policies

Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel says he backs a court ruling that cleared three Jewish teens of wrongdoing after they were detained for praying on the Temple Mount and temporarily banned from the site.

“Freedom of worship is one of the cornerstones of our democracy. It can’t be that a mumbled ‘Shema Yisrael‘ prayer is a criminal act,” he tells Army Radio, calling the ruling “reasonable.”

Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel visits the Museum of Antiquities in Gush Etzion, December 8, 2020. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

He also seems to hint that the government may attempt to formulate new policies regarding the flashpoint site, where Jews can visit but are prohibited from praying due to a long-standing status quo agreement with Jordan that prohibits any changes at the site or in how it is managed.

“We haven’t set any policies on the subject,” he says. “We need to have a serious discussion with the decision makers and not do this ad hoc.”

Following the Sunday ruling, and the ensuing backlash from the Muslim world, Judge Zion Saharay clarified that his narrow verdict did not change the status quo, and that police still had wide leeway to enforce order at the site, indicating that they could continue to prohibit Jewish prayer and punish offenders.

“The decision was focused on one question only: Did the behavior exhibited by the appealers before me, under the concrete circumstances of the case, justify reasonable suspicion for disturbing a police officer on duty or any other form of behavior that may disrupt the peace and justify a ban on them for 15 days,” the judge said.


EU’s von der Leyen says Russia bombing Ukrainian grain supplies, weaponizing hunger

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen accuses Russia of deliberately bombarding grain warehouses across Ukraine and using food supplies as a weapon.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has created disruptions of global food supplies, with both countries two of the world’s biggest exporters of wheat, barley and sunflower oil. The blockade of Ukrainian ports has been particularly harmful, with the EU saying sea shipments accounted for 90% of grain and oilseed exports before the war.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the head of the EU’s executive arm says about 20 million tons of wheat are stuck in Ukraine.

Von der Leyen says exports typically amount to 5 million tons of wheat per month, and are now down to 200,000 to 1 million tons. She says “by getting it out, we can provide Ukrainians with much-needed revenues, and the World Food Program with supplies it badly needs.”

A crater of an explosion is seen after Russian shelling in Soledar, Donetsk region, Ukraine, May 18, 2022. (AP/Andriy Andriyenko)

The European Commission has proposed helping Ukraine export its wheat and other grains by rail, road and river to get around the Russian blockade of Black Sea ports.

Von der Leyen says that fragile countries and vulnerable populations suffer the most, with bread prices in Lebanon having increased by 70% and food shipments from Odesa prevented from reaching Somalia.

Plus, she says “Russia is now hoarding its own food exports as a form of blackmail — holding back supplies to increase global prices, or trading wheat in exchange for political support. This is using hunger and grain to wield power.”

Von der Leyen adds that the EU is stepping up its production to ease pressure on the global food market while supporting Africa to become less dependent on imports.

AP probe finds fatal shot that killed reporter likely came from army

Almost two weeks after the death of Palestinian-American Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, a reconstruction by The Associated Press lends support to assertions from both Palestinian authorities and Abu Akleh’s colleagues that the bullet that cut her down came from an Israeli gun.

Any conclusive answer is likely to prove elusive because of the severe distrust between the two sides, each of which is in sole possession of potentially crucial evidence.

Multiple videos and photos taken on the morning of May 11 show an Israeli convoy parked just up a narrow road from Abu Akleh, with a clear line of sight. They show the reporters and other bystanders in real time taking cover from bullets fired from the direction of the convoy.

The only confirmed presence of Palestinian gunmen was on the other side of the convoy, some 300 meters (yards) away, mostly separated from Abu Akleh by buildings and walls.

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)

Israel says at least one fighter was between the convoy and the journalists, but it has not provided any evidence or indicated the shooter’s location. Palestinian witnesses say there were no gunmen in the area and no gunfire until the barrage that struck Abu Akleh and wounded another reporter.

Those witnesses say they have no doubt that it was Israeli soldiers who killed Abu Akleh, now celebrated as a martyr to both journalism and the Palestinian cause.

In this undated photo provided by Al Jazeera Media Network, Shireen Abu Akleh, a journalist for Al Jazeera network, stands next to a TV camera with the Old City of Jerusalem in the background. (Al Jazeera Media Network via AP)

The Israeli military says she was killed in a complex shootout between soldiers and Palestinian gunmen, and that only a full investigation — including forensic analysis of the bullet — could prove who fired the fatal shot.

The Palestinians have refused to hand over the bullet or cooperate with Israel in any way on the investigation, but say they will share the results of their own probe with any other party.

Teachers union to halt all non-classroom work in protest over reforms

The main high school teachers union has announced that instructors have been told to halt all work outside of classroom hours, amid an ongoing labor dispute with the government.

The union says teachers should not grade papers or other material, enter grades into the school’s system, attend end-of-year parties or other activities outside of normal school hours, or hand out graduation certificates, among other now-verboten activities.

The move is in response to “ridiculous steps” from Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton, according to a statement from union Ran Erez, referring to reforms to end of year testing requirements.

The move may delay graduation for high school seniors, Army Radio reports.

In Ramallah, Turkish FM pledges support for Palestinians

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks during a joint statement with his Palestinian counterpart Riad al-Malki in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks during a joint statement with his Palestinian counterpart Riad al-Malki in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Turkey’s foreign minister says improved ties with Israel will not come at the expense of its commitment to supporting the Palestinians and a two-state solution to the conflict.

Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke in the Palestinian Authority’s administrative headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah during a joint press conference with his counterpart, Riad Malki.

Cavusoglu’s meeting with Palestinian officials comes a day before he makes a landmark visit to Israel. It would be the first visit to the region by a senior Turkish official in 15 years.

“We are leading the normalization process in coordination with Palestinian authorities,” Cavusoglu says. “Our support for the Palestinian cause is completely independent of the course of our relations with Israel.”

Cavusoglu said that dialogue with Israel would “make an important contribution to the reduction of tensions, as it did during Ramadan, and … will also contribute to making the Palestinian cause or the voice of the Palestinians to be heard stronger.”

The foreign minister’s visit to Israel is another sign of efforts by the two former allies to improve long strained relations. Earlier this year, President Isaac Herzog met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, the first official visit by an Israeli leader in 14 years.

Russia slaps entry ban on 154 members of UK House of Lords

A jogger runs past the Palace of Westminster, comprising the House of Lords and the House of Commons, on the banks of the River Thames in London on November 22, 2021 (Niklas Halle'n/AFP)
A jogger runs past the Palace of Westminster, comprising the House of Lords and the House of Commons, on the banks of the River Thames in London on November 22, 2021 (Niklas Halle'n/AFP)

MOSCOW — Russia’s foreign ministry announces it is imposing an entry ban on 154 members of the UK parliament’s House of Lords in retaliation for sanctions against Russian senators over Ukraine.

“In response to a decision taken in March by the British government to put almost all Russia’s Federation Council members on a sanctions list, on a reciprocal basis, personal sanctions are being introduced against 154 members of the House of Lords,” the ministry says in a statement.

Trains between Ashkelon and Beersheba halted due to fire

Trains are being temporarily halted due to a fire close to the tracks near the southern city of Ashkelon.

The closure is affecting trains traveling between Ashkelon and Beersheba, Israel Railways says in a statement.

Fire officials say teams are at the scene battling the blaze.

Firefighters battling fire near Beit Shemesh

Illustrative: A firefighting plane dumps water on a forest in the Judean Hills during an exercise on March 29, 2012. (Omer Miron/Flash90)
Illustrative: A firefighting plane dumps water on a forest in the Judean Hills during an exercise on March 29, 2012. (Omer Miron/Flash90)

Firefighting teams are battling a large blaze on the outskirts of Beit Shemesh.

Five teams and four planes are attempting to extinguish the fire near the Khirbet Hanoot archeological site, close to the small town of Mata, fire officials say.

A group of children who were hiking in the area were evacuated and are unharmed, according to the Fire and Rescue Servies.

The firefighters have yet to establish control over the blaze.

Palestinian family, including infant, said pepper-sprayed near illegal West Bank outpost

People walk by the water tower on the ruins of Homesh, on August 27, 2019. (Hillel Meir/Flash90)
People walk by the water tower on the ruins of Homesh, on August 27, 2019. (Hillel Meir/Flash90)

A Palestinian family driving near the illegal West Bank outpost of Homesh last night was attacked by a group of Israelis, the father of the family tells the Kan public broadcaster.

According to the man, four Israelis opened the door of their car after it stopped near a checkpoint, and pepper-sprayed him, his wife, and his infant son.

The child was taken to a medical center near Jenin for treatment, the man tells the network.

According to Kan, soldiers at the checkpoint did not see the incident.

Russia vows to achieve all goals set for Ukraine war

A view of the destroyed part of the Ilyich Iron and Steel Works in Ukraine's port city of Mariupol on May 18, 2022. (Olga MALTSEVA / AFP)
A view of the destroyed part of the Ilyich Iron and Steel Works in Ukraine's port city of Mariupol on May 18, 2022. (Olga MALTSEVA / AFP)

Two top Russian security officials vow that Moscow will achieve all the goals set for the “military operation” in Ukraine, appearing to address the fact that the invasion, expected by many to be a blitzkrieg, has entered its fourth month this week.

The secretary of Russia’s Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, says in an interview published today that the Russian government “is not chasing deadlines.”

“Nazism must either be 100% eradicated, or it will raise its head in a few years, and in an even uglier form,” he says in a response to a question about the war dragging on.

Russia has falsely called the war a campaign to “denazify” Ukraine — a country with a democratically elected Jewish president who wants closer ties with the West.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu says at a meeting of security officials that Russia is deliberately slowing down its offensive by arranging ceasefires and humanitarian corridors “in order to avoid casualties among the civilians.”

AP’s reporting on the ground found that the Russian forces have repeatedly hit civilian targets, such as hospitals, schools and venues where civilians were sheltering.

Russia looks to scrap upper age limit for soldiers

A Russian serviceman patrols the territory of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Energodar on May 1, 2022. (Andrey BORODULIN / AFP)
A Russian serviceman patrols the territory of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Energodar on May 1, 2022. (Andrey BORODULIN / AFP)

MOSCOW — Russia’s parliament is to consider scrapping the upper age limit for signing up to join the army, in a sign Moscow may be looking to recruit more troops for its military campaign in Ukraine.

Under current legislation, only Russians aged 18 to 40 and foreign nationals aged 18 to 30 have the right to sign their first military service contract.

A draft bill on the agenda of the lower house State Duma would completely lift that upper age limit.

“Highly professional specialists are needed to use high-precision weapons and operate weapons and military equipment,” says a note accompanying the draft bill.

The note said that such specialists usually acquire the necessary skills when they reach their early- to mid-40s.

President Vladimir Putin sent troops to Ukraine on February 24 but three months into Moscow’s military campaign the offensive has “lost momentum,” Western defense chiefs say.

Regev says ‘no apology’ after comments on voting against soldiers, rape victims

Likud MK Miri Regev speaking to the media after testifying to the state commission of inquiry into the tragedy at Mount Meron on May 24, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud MK Miri Regev speaking to the media after testifying to the state commission of inquiry into the tragedy at Mount Meron on May 24, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Likud MK Miri Regev says a leaked recording of her saying the opposition should vote against legislation that benefits disadvantaged populations in order to topple the government does not warrant an apology, adding that her remarks were “taken out of context.”

“I have nothing to apologize for. Whoever recorded should apologize,” she tells reporters.

She calls the recordings “a severe case of intentional leakage of half-truths.”

“At the faction meeting, I said a very clear thing: we have one role — to overthrow this dangerous coalition that is unable to pass even one law without the opposition,” she adds.

Palestinians to press Turkish foreign minister on halting Israeli ‘escalation’

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will ask visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu to pressure Israel “to cease all forms of escalation,” says senior PA diplomat Ahmad al-Deek.

“The message to the Israeli side will be: cease all forms of escalation in the conflict, whether it’s the army’s incursions or shooting incidents, attacks by settlers, or raids at Al-Aqsa and the Flag March,” says al-Deek, a political adviser to PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki.

Al-Maliki is also set to meet with his Turkish counterpart this afternoon before Çavuşoğlu’s tete-a-tete with Abbas.

Al-Deek says Çavuşoğlu’s visit marks the first time a Turkish foreign minister has come to visit the Palestinian Authority.

Turkey and Israel have been undergoing a rapprochement in recent months as Ankara seeks to break out of its increasing regional isolation. Israeli President Isaac Herzog visited Turkey March and met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

While Ramallah has blasted other regional states for normalizing relations with Israel, the PA has taken a more relaxed approach on Turkey’s blooming Israel ties.
“I do not believe that Turkish-Israeli relations with negatively impact [the Palestinians]. Quite the opposite: the Turkish position in support of the Palestinians will have a positive impact,” al-Deek says.

Turkish foreign minister in Ramallah ahead of Israel swing

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says he is holding talks in Ramallah ahead of a visit to Israel meant to herald the thawing of frozen ties between Jerusalem and Ankara.

Cavusoglu tweets a picture of him meeting Palestinian officials at a military crossing near Ramallah, after he flew into Israel early Tuesday.

“In #Palestine to hold Türkiye-Palestine II. Joint Committee  Meeting & bilaterals,” he writes.

Cavusoglu is expected in Israel on Wednesday for a meeting with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, as well as visits to Yad Vashem and the Old City of Jerusalem, the latter of which he will do in a private capacity.

Ukraine says 200 bodies found in Mariupol basement

Workers digging through rubble have found 200 bodies in Mariupol, Ukrainian authorities say, another grim discovery in the ruined port city that has seen some of the worst suffering of the 3-month-old war.

The bodies found in the basement of a collapsed apartment building were in a state of decomposition and a stench permeated the neighborhood, says Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to the city’s mayor.

Mariupol, which the Russians recently claimed full control over, has endured some of the worst suffering of the war and became a worldwide symbol of defiance for the diehard defense put up for months by fighters at a steelworks.

The announcement of the discovery of the bodies comes shortly after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accuses Russia of waging “total war,” seeking to inflict as much death and destruction as possible on his country.

Thousands at funeral for IRGC officer killed in suspected Israeli attack

Mourners gather around a truck carrying the flag draped coffin of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei who was killed on Sunday, in his funeral ceremony in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. (AP/Vahid Salemi)
Mourners gather around a truck carrying the flag draped coffin of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei who was killed on Sunday, in his funeral ceremony in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. (AP/Vahid Salemi)

Thousands of mourners have poured into the streets of Tehran on Tuesday to pay their respects to a senior Revolutionary Guard member fatally shot by two gunmen on a motorcycle earlier this week, punching the air with their fists and chanting “Death to Israel.”

The killing on Sunday of Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei bore the hallmarks of previous deadly shooting attacks in Iran blamed on Israel, such as those targeting the country’s nuclear scientists.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack. Iranian officials have blamed “global arrogance,” which is code for the United States and Israel, for Khodaei’s killing.

Mourners shout anti-US and anti-Israel slogans as the funeral procession snakes through the main Tehran cemetery. A prominent poster hails Khodaei as a martyr along with Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the top Iranian general killed in a US drone strike in 2020 in Iraq, and featured tattered Israeli, American and British flags.

Mourners hold posters of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei during his funeral ceremony in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. (AP/Vahid Salemi)

“Iran is a victim of terrorism,” the banner declares, overlaid with the logos of the Mossad and Central Intelligence Agency.

Guard commander Gen. Hossein Salami as well as Gen. Esmail Ghaani, leader of Iran’s expeditionary Quds Force, attend the funeral.

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