The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they happened.
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi summons France’s ambassador to Israel for a dressing-down after French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Israel was at risk of “long-lasting apartheid.”
A Foreign Ministry statement says Ashkenazi told Ambassador Eric Danon that Le Drian’s remarks were “unacceptable, baseless, far from the reality and Israel rejects them out of hand.”
“Israel expects its friends to not express themselves in an irresponsible way,” the statement adds, saying such remarks can embolden “extremist elements and anti-Israeli actions.” Ashkenazi also expressed concern over rising antisemitism in France, according to the ministry.
He was quoted in the statement stressing that Israel is a democracy that upholds its law and saying he rejects “any attempt to undermine this fact or the State of Israel’s foundations.” He also accuses France of ignoring Israel’s efforts to prevent violence and says Le Drian’s comments were “in effect a prize to extremist elements and terror organizations, first off the Hamas terror organization.”
TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urges Iranians to ignore calls to boycott next month’s presidential election, after several hopefuls were barred from running against ultraconservative candidates.
Iranians are set to elect a successor to President Hassan Rouhani on June 18 amid widespread discontent over a deep economic and social crisis.
The exiled opposition has for months run a campaign on social media networks calling on Iranians to stay away from the polls, using hashtags in Persian such as #NototheIslamicRepublic.
“Do not pay attention to those who are campaigning and saying it is useless to go to the polls and that one should not go to the polls,” Khamenei tells lawmakers in a speech via videoconference, according to his official Instagram account.
His declaration comes a day after Rouhani said he had asked the supreme leader to intervene to ensure greater “competition” in the presidential election.
Iran’s candidate-vetting Guardian Council on Tuesday approved seven mainly ultraconservative hopefuls to run in the election and disqualified moderate conservative Ali Larijani.
The council — a conservative-dominated, unelected body — also barred firebrand former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Its decision appears to clear the way for a strong run by ultraconservative judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi.
Rouhani is constitutionally barred from running for a third consecutive term.
A record 57 percent of Iranians stayed away from legislative elections in February last year after thousands of candidates, many of them moderates and reformists, were disqualified.
The poll comes at a critical time for Iran amid talks with world powers aimed at reviving a nuclear deal that has been on life support since former US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from it in 2018.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The European Union calls on Iran to review a case of a prominent female human rights activist who was sentenced to 30 months in prison and 80 lashes on charges of protesting against the killing of protesters during the country’s 2019 unrest.
A spokesperson for the bloc urges Iran to look into the case of Narges Mohammadi under “applicable international human rights law and taking into account her deteriorating health condition.”
Earlier this week, Mohammadi confirmed her sentence in an Instagram post and said she does not “accept any of these sentences.”
“The recent sentencing of the Iranian human rights defender Mrs. Narges Mohammadi to prison term and flogging is a worrying development,” the EU says.
In the post, Mohammadi said one of the charges against her is having a party and dancing in jail.
She was released from jail in October 2020, after serving eight and a half years in prison, after her initial, 10-year sentence was commuted. In that case, she was sentenced in Tehran’s Revolutionary Court on charges including planning crimes to harm the security of Iran, spreading propaganda against the government and forming and managing an illegal group.
Before imprisonment she also was vice president of the banned Defenders of Human Rights Center in Iran.
Mohammadi has been close to Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, who founded the center. Ebadi left Iran after the disputed re-election of then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009, which touched off unprecedented protests and harsh crackdowns by authorities.
In 2018, Mohammadi, an engineer and physic, was awarded the 2018 Andrei Sakharov Prize.
The head of the Hamas terror group in Gaza describes the ceasefire to end 11 days of fighting against Israel as “fragile.”
“If the occupiers desecrate the Al-Aqsa Mosque again or force our people in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood to leave their homes — repeat what they did before, the ceasefire will be broken,” Yahya Sinwar tells Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, referring respectively to the mosque atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City and a nearby neighborhood where several Palestinian families face pending evictions from homes claimed by Jewish nationalists.
KIGALI, Rwanda — French President Emmanuel Macron recognizes his country’s role in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, from backing a genocidal regime to ignoring warnings of the impending massacres.
Macron kicks off a highly symbolic visit to Rwanda after three decades of diplomatic tensions, with a tour of the Kigali Genocide Memorial, where he pays tribute to some 800,000 mostly Tutsis who were slaughtered in the killings.
“Standing here today, with humility and respect, by your side, I have come to recognize our responsibilities,” Macron says in a speech at the Kigali Genocide Memorial.
His highly anticipated speech doesn’t contain a formal apology, but he goes further than his predecessors and says that only those who had survived the horrors “can maybe forgive, give us the gift of forgiveness.”
Rwandan President Paul Kagame hails Macron’s speech, speaking to reporters after the two leaders meet.
“His words were something more valuable than an apology. They were the truth,” Kagame says.
Macron is the first French leader since 2010 to visit the East African nation, which has long accused France of complicity in the killings.
Macron says France “was not complicit” in the genocide.
“But France has a role, a story and a political responsibility to Rwanda. She has a duty: to face history head-on and recognize the suffering she has inflicted on the Rwandan people by too long valuing silence over the examination of the truth.”
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi will lead an Israeli delegation to Egypt early next week, The Times of Israel has learned.
The schedule for the trip is still being put together and as of now Ashkenazi is expected to meet only with Egyptian officials.
Egypt played a central role in crafting the recent ceasefire agreement to end fighting between Israel and the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine and Russia both say they’ve evacuated dozens of their citizens from the Gaza Strip following hostilities between Israel and Palestinian terrorists there.
A plane carrying 109 Ukrainian passport-holders who had requested to leave the enclave landed in a Kyiv airport earlier today, President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office says in a statement.
Zelensky hails the “successful homecoming” and says the same plane had delivered to Kyiv thirteen Moldovans and four Bulgarian nationals.
Ukrainian diplomats had held “a series of difficult negotiations” to ensure the safe passage to Ukraine, Zelensky’s office says.
Separately Moscow announces that it had also brought dozens of its nationals to Russia, with the emergency situations ministry saying a plane had repatriated 64 people from Gaza.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has decided not to file a civil suit on behalf of the state against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife in a case involving allegations of illegally procured catering services at the premier’s office residence.
As part of the plea deal, Sara Netanyahu pleaded guilty to taking unfair advantage of a mistake and agreed to pay a fine of some $15,000.
She and a former caretaker at the Prime Minister’s Residence, who also admitted to the same charge as part of a plea deal, had been accused of fraud and breach of trust for using some $100,000 of state funds on catered meals while there was a full-time chef on staff.
A relative of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has been hospitalized in Israel for over a month, including during the recent fighting between the Israeli military and Gaza-ruling terror group, Channel 12 news reports.
Quoting sources familiar with the matter, the network says Haniyeh’s 17-year-old niece is hospitalized at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv after undergoing a bone marrow transplant.
The hospital refuses to comment.
Haaretz publisher apologizes for paper’s removal of Israelis from story on kids killed in Gaza fighting
The publisher of the Haaretz daily apologizes after the paper ran a New York Times article about Palestinian and Israeli children killed during the recent fighting in Gaza, but removed the Israeli children from the story that appeared on its front page this morning.
In a tweet, Amos Schocken attributed the “serious mistake” to an unspecified editor “who explained that we had already reported on their cases extensively and in real time.”
Schocken says the version of the story that Haaretz published “harmed the manner in which the New York Times portrayed what happened in the war to children from both sides.”
He apologizes to the left-leaning newspaper’s readers and says the online story version of the story will be corrected.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani about the recent ceasefire agreement to end fighting in Gaza between Israel and Hamas.
The State Department says Blinken thanked al-Thani for Qatar’s role in helping secure the ceasefire.
The phone call comes a day after Blinken wrapped up a visit to the region aimed at shoring up the ceasefire and Qatar announced it would give $500 million to Gaza reconstruction efforts.
Blinken also talks by phone with Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister about the Gaza ceasefire, according to the State Department.
Two suspects have been arrested for allegedly throwing a rock at a car during clashes in Jerusalem earlier this month on Jerusalem Day, lightly injuring a 7-month-old baby who was struck in the head.
Police says the suspects, residents of East Jerusalem’s A-Tur neighborhood in their 20s, will remain in custody until May 31 as prosecutors prepare to file charges against them.
תינוקת בת 7 חודשים נפצעה כשנסעה ברכב עם הוריה לאחר שהמשפחה הותקפה ביום ירושלים ע"י תושבים ערבים. המשטרה הגישה היום הצהרת תובע נגד החשודים – תושבי שכונת א-טור. pic.twitter.com/ou8fR3aTb4
— סולימאן מסוודה سليمان مسودة (@SuleimanMas1) May 27, 2021
Ireland’s parliament has called Israel’s handling of the West Bank a “de facto annexation” in a rare use of the term by officials of an EU member state.
The designation comes in a nonbinding motion passed by the Dail, the lower house, by Sinn Fein, a nationalist left-wing party. Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney, who is not from Sinn Fein, also used the term in a debate in parliament earlier this week.
A draft amendment to the motion calling to expel the Israeli ambassador to Ireland and impose comprehensive sanctions against Israel failed to pass.
The motion says the Irish Dail “declares that Israel’s actions amount to unlawful de facto annexation of that territory and calls on the Government not to recognize as lawful any situation created by any such serious breach of international law.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with a delegation from the Jewish Federations of North America that is visiting to show solidarity with Israel after the recent fighting in Gaza against Hamas and other terror groups.
The Yesh Atid and New Hope parties report they have begun making progress in coalition talks and say negotiators reached agreement on numerous issues during meetings today.
“The teams will soon continue the talks in the aim of reaching agreements on forming a government,” the parties say in a joint statement.
The High Court of Justice orders the government to explain why Interim State Prosecutor Amit Aisman has not been appointed as the permanent head of the State Attorney’s Office.
The post has been unfilled since December 2019 due to Israel’s continued political turmoil.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz announces he will extend IDF Chief of Staff Avi Kohavi’s term for a fourth year, keeping him as the military’s top commander until 2023.
Hailing Kohavi’s nearly 2.5 year tenure, Gantz says keeping the IDF chief another year will allow him to continue his multi-year “Momentum Plan.” He also lauds Kohavi’s leadership of the military during the recent fighting against Palestinian terrorists and Gaza and other “operational activities” elsewhere of late.
“Extending his tenure at this time of regional changes and challenges from a variety of arenas is critical to Israel’s security,” Gantz says in a statement from his office.
The statement says Gantz updated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit ahead of the announcement.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has decided to indict Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman on the United Torah Judaism party for obstruction of justice and breach of trust, pending a hearing.
The pending charges relate to suspicions that Litzman used his former position as deputy health minister to prevent the extradition to Australia of a former principal of an Orthodox girls school in Melbourne accused of sexual assaulting minors, and to prevent the closure of a deli cited for health violations.
Mandelblit won’t indict Litzman for bribery, which police recommended he be charged for.
Litzman’s United Torah Judaism is a key partner in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s right-wing religious bloc.
Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman’s office issues a statement reacting to Attorney General Avichai Mandlelblit’s announcement that he intends to indict the minister for obstruction of justice and breach of trust, pending a hearing.
“We believe in Minister Litzman’s full innocence,” it says, welcoming Mandenblit’s decision not to include a bribery charge.
His offices says Litzman is readying for the hearing and that “with the help of God,” he won’t ultimately be charged.
ROME — The Israeli boy who survived last weekend’s deadly cable car crash in the Italian mountains is awake and will soon be moved out of intensive care, the hospital says.
The five-year-old has been in critical condition since the cabin plunged to the ground on the Mottarone mountain, killing the other 14 people inside, including his parents, younger brother and great-grandparents.
“Eitan is now awake and conscious in the intensive care unit, speaking with his aunt and looking around,” says a spokesman for Turin’s Regina Margherita hospital.
“From a clinical point of view, he is still in a critical condition due to his thoracic and abdominal trauma and the fractures to his limbs.
“In the next few days he will be taken out of intensive care and transferred to a hospital ward.”
Italian police yesterday arrested three senior managers from the cable car operating company over Sunday’s tragedy.
They are accused of deliberately deactivating the emergency brake that should have prevented the cable car from falling backwards when the cable snapped.
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations launches an emergency appeal for $95 million for Gaza for the next three months to meet immediate humanitarian needs and repairs to key facilities. That includes hospitals, schools, water and sewage facilities and other infrastructure destroyed or damaged during the recent conflict between Israel and Gaza’s terrorist Hamas rulers.
Lynn Hastings, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Gaza, urges donors to contribute generously at a virtual news conference launching the appeal, which she says will target one million people for assistance.
“I’m calling for humanitarian assistance right now to meet the immediate needs,” she says.
Hastings says the conflict left 800,000 people without regular access to piped water. Untreated sewage water was being discharged into the sea and 58 education facilities were damaged, including 285 buildings with over 1,000 housing and commercial units destroyed. Six hospitals and 11 health care centers were also damaged, and electricity was down to four to six hours a day.
The $95 million is to meet immediate needs for food, health care, medicine, medical supplies, and quick repairs of some infrastructure, she sasy, adding that an assessment is under way to determine priority needs.
Hastings says the majority of the money will go to Gaza but some will go to the West Bank and East Jerusalem, mainly to help injured people, possibly with cash assistance, psycho-social help or protection issues.
kes that keeps bringing us back to having to rebuild Gaza,” she said.
Asked what steps were being taken to ensure that funds donated for the appeal aren’t diverted to Hamas, Hastings says the UN has “a very heavy monitoring process in place” and “we’re working on it with the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority to see if it can be improved in any way.”
Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai announces the extension of Operation Law and Order to nab suspects in the recent violence between Arabs and Jews that roiled ethnically mixed communities and other parts of the country.
Police say 348 suspects have been arrested in the operation so far and that 1,938 have been arrested since the recent fighting in Gaza, when the rioting in Israel broke out. There have been 175 indictments filed, according to police.
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi says the recent fighting between the military and Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group ended decisively in Israel’s advantage.
“The balance of accomplishments ended in a clear advantage for the IDF and Hamas, which started a war as the alleged defender of Jerusalem, finished it as the destroyer of Gaza,” Kohavi says in a speech to graduates of the military’s war college.
He touts Israel’s “many achievements” in the campaign versus the “limited” military achievements of Hamas, most of which he says were psychological.”
He also says the IDF is drawing lessons from the fighting and “we are already preparing for the next campaign.”
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is not deathly ill, his deputy Naim Qassem tells Lebanese media.
“The secretary-general is fine, praise be to God…he was struck by illness in recent days, and needed two or three days to recover. But because those who love him were waiting for his speech on May 25, his failure to appear would raise questions,” Qassem says.
Nasrallah coughed and wheezed his way through a recent televised address, leading to the Israeli military to speculate that the Hezbollah chief may have been infected with the novel coronavirus.
GENEVA — The UN Human Rights Council decides to create an open-ended international investigation into violations surrounding the latest Gaza violence, and also into “systematic” abuses in the Palestinian territories and inside Israel.
The resolution, which passes with 24 of the council’s 47 members in favor, nine opposed and 14 abstaining, will spur an unprecedented level of scrutiny on abuses and their “root causes” in the decades-long Middle East conflict.
The Health Ministry announces that starting June 1, travelers entering Israel will have to pay for their mandatory coronavirus tests, which until now have been funded by the state.
It says the tests will cost NIS 80 ($25) a pop if scheduled before flying and NIS 100 ($30) for travelers who don’t sign up until until they land at Ben Gurion Airport. The price at land crossings will be NIS 100 each.
The ministry also says Israelis will now have to pick up the tab for their own coronavirus tests when they travel abroad.
The first group of vaccinated tourists arrives in Israel as part of a new program to gradually reopen Israel’s borders to foreign visitors who have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19.
The group was made up of theology students from Prince of Peace Church in the US state of Missouri, according to the Tourism Ministry, which says they were greeted with flowers before undergoing mandatory COVID-19 tests.
“You are the first organized tourist group to visit Israel in over a year,” Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen tells them, according to a ministry statement. “Israel is an attractive destination, with unparalleled historic and religious sites sacred to three religions, vibrant cities, amazing food and warm people. I am sure you will enjoy it all.”
She says she hopes more groups will soon be on the way.
The Foreign Ministry denounces the UN Human Rights Council’s adoption of a resolution establishing a permanent inquiry into alleged abuses in Israel and Palestinian areas.
The probe will also look into the recent fighting Gaza between Israel and the Strip’s Hamas rulers.
“The decision doesn’t contain any reference to the Hamas terror organization and completely ignores the 4,300 rockets toward Israeli citizens,” the ministry says in a statement.
It calls the decision a “moral stain on the international community and the UN.”
The ministry argues that the Israel Defense Forces acted in accordance with international law when defending Israeli citizens, while Hamas indiscriminately fired rockets toward non-combatants.
“The true purpose of the commission of inquiry is to whitewash the crimes of the Hamas terror organization and incriminate Israel for actions in defense of its citizens,” it says.
It also says Israel won’t cooperate with the commission and thanks the nine countries that voted against the decision.
Yamina chief Naftali Bennett met today with Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, despite his claims of not holding talks with the “change bloc” of anti-Netanyahu parties, Channel 12 news reports.
Yamina doesn’t deny the tete-a-tete at a Tel Aviv hotel but claims the “routine meeting” with Gantz, who is defense minister, was scheduled during the recent fighting in Gaza.
Meanwhile, the Kan public broadcaster says Yamina negotiators met yesterday with their counterparts in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud party.
Prime Minister Netanyahu denounces the UN Human Rights Council’s “shameful” decision to establish a permanent commission of inquiry into alleged abuses in Israel and Palestinian areas.
The premier says the adoption of the resolution is another case of the council’s “blatant anti-Israel obsession.”
“Once again, an immoral automatic majority at the Council whitewashes a genocidal terrorist organization that deliberately targets Israeli civilians while turning Gaza’s civilians into human shields,” he writes on Twitter, referring to Hamas. “This while depicting as the ‘guilty party’ a democracy acting legitimately to protect its citizens from thousands of indiscriminate rocket attacks. This travesty makes a mockery of international law and encourages terrorists worldwide.”
Today's shameful decision is yet another example of the UN Human Rights Council's blatant anti-Israel obsession.
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) May 27, 2021
The Biden administration has decided it will not renew a waiver that allowed a politically connected US oil company to operate in northeast Syria under president Donald Trump’s pledge to “keep the oil” produced in the region, according to a US official familiar with the decision.
Treasury Department rules prohibit most US companies from doing business in Syria. The waiver for Delta Crescent Energy was issued in April 2020, months after Trump announced that he wanted to keep some US troops in the oil-rich region to maintain control of the oil profits.
Trump’s “keep the oil” message is no longer US foreign policy under the Biden administration, and using the US military to facilitate Syrian oil production is deemed inappropriate, according to the official, who is not authorized to publicly discuss the decision and speaks on condition of anonymity.
The company was founded in 2019 by James Cain, US ambassador to Denmark under president George W. Bush; James Reese, a retired Army Delta Force officer; and John Dorrier Jr., a former executive with United Kingdom-based Gulfsands Petroleum. Cain, a onetime executive with the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, has donated more than $30,000 to the Republican Party and GOP candidates over the years.
Northeastern Syria is the center for what remains of Syria’s oil industry. It is in shambles but remains one of the main sources of revenues for the Kurdish-led autonomous administration there.
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