The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they happened.
An Israeli military “Skylark” drone was found by the Lebanese army near the town of Ayta ash Shab earlier this evening, according to the Hezbollah affiliated al-Manar television.
The Israel Defense Forces says the drone crashed in Lebanon several days ago due to a technical malfunction, adding that “there is no concern of leaked information.”
According to military assessments, the Israel Defense Forces expects that some 1,500 rockets could be fired from Lebanon per day in a potential war.
The assessments are being put to the test during an ongoing monthlong exercise dubbed “Chariots of Fire.”
The Home Front Command is practicing a simulation in which 80 sites are heavily damaged in rocket attacks with some 300 casualties, during an escalation with the Hezbollah terror group that may last several days.
The exercise also includes practicing maneuvers for a possible ground invasion in Lebanon.
Israel is set to “sharpen” its travel warnings for several countries close to Iran over fears the Islamic Republic could seek revenge for the assassination of a senior IRGC officer in Tehran, Channel 12 news reports.
According to the unsourced report, the heightened travel warnings will apply to Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
The network says Israel fears that a New York Times report on Israel’s ostensible acknowledgment of responsibility for killing Col. Sayyad Khodaei could “raise Iran’s motivation” to target Israelis.
It also reports there were “lots of phone calls” today between Israel and the US over the leak, and the two sides have now “put the incident behind them.”
The director-general of the Foreign Ministry says the US must provide answers about a New York Times report that said Israel told American officials that it killed a senior Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps officer in Tehran.
“I leave the explanations for our talks with the Americans,” Alon Ushpiz tells the Kan public broadcaster.
BERLIN — Western allies are considering whether to allow Russian oligarchs to buy their way out of sanctions and use the money to rebuild Ukraine, according to government officials familiar with the matter.
Canadian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland proposed the idea at a G-7 finance ministers’ meeting in Germany last week.
Freeland raised the issue after oligarchs spoke to her about it, one official says. The Canadian minister knows some Russian oligarchs from her time as a journalist in Moscow.
The official says the Ukrainians were aware of the discussions. The official says it’s also in the West’s interests to have prominent oligarchs dissociate themselves with Russian President Vladimir Putin while at the same time providing funding for Ukraine.
“We would not be talking about this if there wasn’t some comfort on the part of the Ukrainians,” the official says. “We need to know that it works for them, too.”
The proposal was raised in the context of providing additional money to Ukraine and how the frozen funds and assets of oligarchs could be a source of funds.
At this point, it is just an idea, the official says, but Western allies have expressed interest. European Union officials have talked about the need to look at different and new avenues of confiscating assets and providing money to Ukraine.
RAMALLAH, West Bank — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has appointed Hussein al-Sheikh as the Palestine Liberation Organization’s secretary-general, official news agency Wafa says.
The position had been held for years by the late Saeb Erekat, who was also the PLO’s chief negotiator in the now moribund peace talks with Israel.
Erekat died of coronavirus complications in 2020.
Sheikh, the Palestinian Authority’s civil affairs minister, is seen as a possible successor to Abbas.
A veteran of Abbas’ Fatah movement, he has cultivated ties with foreign diplomats and with Israel, including by meeting with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.
Once the undisputed champion of the Palestinian cause, the PLO has lost much of its relevance since the establishment of the PA in 1994.
PLO chairman Abbas, who is also the PA president, is 87 years old and has seen support dive to historic lows in opinion polls, standing accused of autocracy in rare West Bank street protests last year.
Palestinians have not been to the ballot box for 16 years, as Abbas scrapped elections scheduled for last year.
Israel has warned Gaza’s Hamas rulers that a nationalistic march in the Old City on Jerusalem Day will go forward as planned even at the risk of a security escalation, Channel 12 news reports.
According to the report, Israel also warned Hamas against firing rockets during the Flag March on Sunday in a message relayed by mediators.
The network also cites a senior police source insisting there is no reason to change the parade’s route, “even if there is rocket fire.”
“We don’t need to worry about marching within Israel,” the unnamed source says.
CAIRO — The United States urges Yemen’s Houthi rebels to release all US Embassy local staffers that they had detained, following the death of one of them after seven months in captivity.
The Iran-backed Houthis seized the headquarters of the US Embassy in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa last October. They detained dozens of former staffers, many of whom were later released, but at least 11 remained in the rebels’ custody.
Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest nation, has been fractured by a brutal civil war since 2014, when the Houthis seized Sanaa and much of northern Yemen, forcing the internationally recognized government into exile. A Saudi-led coalition entered the war a year later to try and restore the government to power. Washington shut down its embassy in 2015.
In a tweet, the embassy, now operating outside of Yemen, says it’s mourning Abdulhameed Al-Ajami, a retired employee of the US Agency for International Development, describing him as “an innocent grandfather” and “a proud Yemeni” dedicated to educating children in his country.
“We extend our condolences to his loved ones and call on the Houthis to end this injustice and release every single current and former US Embassy employee now,” it says.
Yesterday, the US State Department issued a statement confirming Al-Ajami’s death but did not mention any details on the time or the circumstances of his death.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz responds to the Palestinian Authority’s investigation into the death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, strongly rejecting the claim that Israeli troops intentionally shot her amid clashes with Palestinian gunmen in Jenin.
In a statement, Gantz says Israel regrets Abu Akleh’s death and notes the military is conducting its own probe into the matter.
“Any claim that the IDF intentionally targets journalists or those uninvolved [in terror] is a crude and blatant lie,” Gantz says.
He notes Israeli forces have long conducted counter-terror operations in Jenin and says the military refrains “as much as possible” from striking uninvolved parties.
Gantz also reiterates his call for the PA to share the bullet.
“Despite the many requests, the Palestinians refuse to cooperate, which raises the question if they really want to reach the truth,” he says.
LONDON — Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey is facing sexual assault charges in the UK, police and prosecutors say, after a review of allegations against him.
The two-time Oscar winner for “The Usual Suspects” and “American Beauty” was artistic director of The Old Vic theater in London between 2004 and 2015.
Allegations against him first emerged in the wake of the #MeToo movement that saw numerous claims of sexual assault and harassment in the movie industry.
That prompted an investigation by London’s Metropolitan Police, and a review by The Old Vic of the 62-year-old Spacey’s time in charge there.
The Crown Prosecution Service says in a statement that it had “authorized criminal charges” against the actor “for four counts of sexual assault against three men.”
“He has also been charged with causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent,” says Rosemary Ainslie, from the service.
“The charges follow a review of the evidence gathered by the Metropolitan Police in its investigation,” adds Ainslie, who heads the special crime division.
At a press conference in Ramallah, Palestinian Authority chief prosecutor Akram Khatib tells journalists that Palestinian investigators have determined that Israeli gunfire killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.
Khatib adds that forensic evidence indicates that Akleh was killed as she was attempting to run away from the sudden bursts of Israeli gunfire.
“She was fleeing forward, as can be seen by the path taken by the bullet,” says Khatib, adding that she was turned away.
Abu Akleh was killed two weeks ago in Jenin in disputed circumstances while covering an Israeli raid that sparked a gunfight with Palestinian gunmen.
The Israel Defense Forces initially said that errant Palestinian gunfire may have killed Abu Akleh, but later acknowledged Israeli fire could have killed her and is conducting its own investigation into the incident.
According to Khatib, the bullet used to kill Abu Akleh was a relatively small “Roger” bullet often used by Israeli forces. He says it had been fired from 170-200 meters away by a sniper with a clear line of sight.
“The Israeli occupation forces began firing bullets at them, without any warning,” Khatib says.
He claims that the soldiers clearly saw Abu Akleh and there was nothing obstructing their view.
PA investigators believe Abu Akleh was directly shot by Israeli soldiers, rather than struck by accident while intending to shoot another target, according to Khatib.
Israel has offered the PA a joint investigation into Abu Akleh’s death. Israeli officials have said that without access to the bullet, it will be near impossible to determine whether an Israeli gun fired the shots.
The PA has rejected both Israeli, American and international help and insisted on conducting its own investigation.
“We are proud that we did not include anyone else in the investigation,” says PA presidential spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeinah.
Abu Rudeinah further laments “American aid and global silence” on Israeli actions in the West Bank, including the alleged killing of Abu Akleh.
An Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps colonel killed in Tehran this week allegedly plotted to assassinate French Jewish philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Levy is reportedly among a series of figures who Hassan Sayyad Khodaei planned to have killed or kidnapped.
US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides expressed concern over the upcoming Flag March for Jerusalem Day during a phone call today with Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, the Walla news site reports.
According to the report, which cited an unnamed Israeli official, Nides said he was worried the nationalist event could fuel an escalation of violence, but he did not request that the route of the march be changed.
Barlev reportedly responded that he understood the concern and stressed police were working to prevent any provocations or friction during the march on Sunday.
“My father [Haim Barlev] as deputy chief of staff gave the order to liberate Jerusalem. This is our capital,” the minister is quoted as saying.
The president of Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba has been assigned a security detail due to threats against him and his family, according to the Kan public broadcaster, after he approved a pro-Palestinian rally at the school on Nakba Day.
The report says the school is not yet involving the police in the alleged threats against Daniel Chamovitz.
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin says the West will fail in its attempts to isolate Russia and face growing economic problems.
Speaking today via video link to members of the Eurasian Economic Forum, Putin says Russia wasn’t going to shut itself off from international cooperation. The forum includes several ex-Soviet nations.
Putin says that trying to isolate Russia is “impossible, utterly unrealistic in the modern world” and “those who try to do it primarily hurt themselves.”
The Russian leader cites growing economic challenges in the West, including “inflation unseen in 40 years, growing unemployment, rupture of supply chains and the worsening of global crises in such sensitive spheres as food.”
“This is not a joke,” he says. “This is a serious thing that will have an impact on the entire system of economic and political relations.”
He lambasts the West for seizing Russian reserves, saying that “the theft of others’ assets never brought any good.”
The military has rejected an anti-settlement group’s request to secure a planned march to the illegal Homesh outpost Saturday.
In a letter to Peace Now, IDF Central Command chief Yehuda Fuchs notes Israelis are officially barred from visiting the site in the northern West Bank and that no entry permit has been granted for the march.
Meretz MK Mossi Raz of the coalition’s left-wing Meretz party calls on Defense Minister Benny Gantz to let the march go ahead.
“Just like he allowed the march of the settlers,” Raz tweets, referring to an event last month that the IDF secured following initial objections.
The upcoming march comes after Gantz said earlier this week that Homesh would be evacuated, but didn’t specify a timeline.
KYIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian governor of the eastern Luhansk region says Russian bombardments killed three people in and around the city of Lysychansk, which is a key focus of fighting.
Serhiy Haidai says today that one person was killed in Lysychansk and two in the nearby village of Ustynivka the day before amid a Russian artillery bombardment. He says strikes in the region had hit various targets including private houses and a humanitarian aid center, without specifying how the people died.
Haidai is the Kyiv-backed governor of the Luhansk region, where the Ukrainian government is holding onto a small area around Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk in the face of a focused push by Russian forces.
In the northern Kharkiv region, governor Oleh Synehubov says two men ages 64 and 82 had been killed in shelling of the town of Balakliya and 10 other people were injured, including a 9-year-old girl. Five other people were injured in various other places in the region, he writes on the Telegram messaging app.
An El Al flight from Nice lands safely at Ben Gurion Airport after an emergency situation was declared due to a problem with the plane.
An emergency situation has been declared at Ben Gurion Airport due to a malfunction on an El Al plane arriving from Nice.
The Israel Airports Authority says 170 people are aboard the flight.
Rescue services are on their way to the airport ahead of the plane’s landing in the coming minutes.
The Hamas terror group calls for Palestinians to head to Al-Aqsa Mosque at dawn on Jerusalem Day “to thwart the occupation’s plans.”
“We warn the leaders of the occupation against any miscalculations in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa. We reiterate that we are proceeding with all strength, determination and certainty in defending our Jerusalem,” Hamas says.
The anniversary is expected to see high tensions between Israel and the Palestinians. Israeli nationalists are set to march through the Muslim Quarter in the capital’s Old City. Some are separately planning to ascend to the flashpoint Temple Mount.
Palestinian terror groups have threatened that they will not allow Israeli “provocations” to go by unanswered.
“We will not allow the violation of Al-Aqsa or thuggery in the streets of Jerusalem,” Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said in a speech commemorating last year’s 11-day war earlier this week.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine says that fighting in the eastern Donbas region of the country has reached its fiercest level yet, as Russian forces pushed deeper into the industrial region.
“The fighting has reached its maximum intensity,” Ukraine’s Deputy Defence Minister Ganna Malyar tells a press briefing, warning that an “extremely difficult” and “long” period of combat lay ahead.
A senior Defense Ministry official told American officials during meetings in Washington last week that the Trump administration made a mistake by withdrawing the US from the Iran nuclear deal, the Walla news site reports.
Quoting unnamed Israeli and US officials, the report says Brig. Gen. (Res.) Dror Shalom, who heads the ministry’s Political-Military Bureau, made the remarks in talks with officials at the State Department and Defense Department.
According to the news site, Foreign Ministry Deputy Director-General Joshua Zarka was in the United States at the same time and delivered the opposite message.
An unnamed Israeli senior official quoted in the report says Shalom’s stance is long known but that he shouldn’t have expressed it to Biden administration officials, arguing they will use such remarks to boost their arguments for rejoining the nuclear deal.
Police, in a joint operation with the Shin Bet, announce the arrest of a Palestinian suspected of planning to attack Jerusalem’s light rail with fireworks.
According to police, the suspect — a 25-year-old resident of Shuafat in East Jerusalem — also snuck fireworks onto the Temple Mount and was involved last year in producing explosives and hurling a pipe bomb at officers.
He was arrested last month, but details of the case were under gag order. He is due to be indicted later today.
LISBON, Portugal — The Portuguese government has given its authorization for the sale of Chelsea by Roman Abramovich, who as a Portuguese passport holder needed its approval.
Today’s decision by Portugal comes a day after the British government approved the sale of Chelsea by the sanctioned Russian-Israeli oligarch to a consortium fronted by a part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Portugal’s rubber stamp was also needed for the deal worth 2.5 billion pounds ($3.1 billion) — the highest price ever for a sports team — to go through.
“The two competent national authorities, the ministry of foreign affairs and the ministry of finance, gave the green light to the request received from Roman Abramovich for a humanitarian waiver, allowing the English club to be transacted,” the Portuguese government says in a statement.
The government in Lisbon says its backing of the sale hinges on “the guarantee given by the British authorities that the proceeds from the sale will be used for humanitarian purposes, not directly or indirectly benefiting the owner of the club, which is on the European Union sanctions list.”
Abramovich gained Portuguese citizenship in 2021 thanks to a law that offered to naturalize the descendants of Sephardic Jews who were forced to leave the Iberian Peninsula centuries before.
Abramovich has been sanctioned by British and European authorities over his links to Russian President Vladimir Putin following the invasion of Ukraine. British and Portuguese authorities had to ensure the oligarch would not profit from the enforced sale of the club.
Abramovich’s assets were frozen in March and Chelsea has been operating under a British government license that expires on Tuesday.
BEIRUT — The Lebanese pound hits a new low against the US dollar on the black market today after a sharp drop that coincided with May 15 parliamentary elections.
According to websites monitoring the exchange rate, the pound crashed below the symbolic threshold of 35,000 to the greenback, a historic low for the national currency.
For decades, the Lebanese pound was pegged to the dollar at 1,500, meaning that it has lost around 95 percent of its value in two years.
A financial crisis widely blamed on government corruption and mismanagement has caused the worst economic crisis in Lebanon’s history.
The cost of a full tank of gasoline now far exceeds the minimum monthly wage, mains electricity comes on barely two hours a day and unaffordable school fees are driving increased student dropouts.
Four out of five Lebanese are now considered poor by the World Bank.
The country desperately needs an international rescue package but the required reforms have not been forthcoming.
The exchange rate, which is unofficial but applies to most transactions, had recently stabilized at around 26,000 to the dollar but took a tumble after the latest legislative polls.
The results brought in a handful of independents who support the spirit of a 2019 protest movement which called for the wholesale ouster of Lebanon’s corrupt and hereditary ruling class.
But they also yielded a more scattered assembly that observers predict could remain stuck in a political deadlock that will further delay any meaningful economic recovery program.
Schoolkids and residents of several apartment buildings are evacuated from their homes in Jerusalem’s Ir Ganim neighborhood after a fire breaks out in an area between buildings, according to police.
Police say officers and firefighters have so have so far cleared two apartment buildings, a school and two preschools.
Several people are being treated for smoke inhalation.
There is no current danger to other buildings in the area, according to a police statement.
The Sderot Municipality is placing mobile bomb shelters around the southern town, according to a photo published by the Kan public broadcaster, amid concerns Palestinian terrorists in the nearby Gaza Strip could fire rockets toward Israel during Jerusalem Day on Sunday.
Last year, Gaza’s Hamas rulers fired rockets at Israel amid a nationalistic march through the Old City that is held annually on Jerusalem Day, setting off an 11-day conflict.
72 שעות למצעד הדגלים בירושלים: בשדרות כבר מתכוננים pic.twitter.com/VJD9g56I5j
— Itsik Zuarets איציק זוארץ (@Itsik_zuarets) May 26, 2022
Separately, Hebrew media reports say three reserve companies of Border Police officers will be called up to further bolster police ahead of Jerusalem Day, as they ramp up measures in the capital and mixed Jewish and Arab cities nationwide to be on guard for any eruptions of violence.
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