The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.
The main Independence Day ceremony at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl has concluded.
Nationwide street parties, concerts, and general merrymaking are expected to continue into the night.
A Palestinian suspect is arrested by Israeli troops after attempting to cross into Israel from the Gaza Strip.
The Israel Defense Forces says the unarmed man was detained at the southern section of the fence, and is being questioned at the scene.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken offers congratulations to Israelis for Independence Day.
“The bonds between our two countries, based on our shared democratic ideals, are unshakeable. The United States remains steadfast in its commitment to Israel’s security and deeply values our partnership in facing global challenges, including threats posed by Iran,” he says in a statement.
“The United States looks forward to continuing our work with Israel to create a more peaceful, secure, and prosperous Middle East, including through building additional bridges between Israel and its neighbors.
“Yom Atzmaut sameach,” he says — Happy Independence Day.
Hundreds of revelers gather in Tel Aviv’s HaBima Square, spraying foam, blowing horns, and making merry to usher in Israel’s Independence Day.
“This is what it means to be Israeli,” says Tal, 32, who came to the square with her two children.
As they run in circles around her, intermittently targeting each other with spray foam cans and giggling, she says the joining of Memorial Day with tonight’s celebrations is what she loves most about the holiday.
Speaking at the ceremony on Mount Herzl, Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy says that in the transition between Memorial Day and Independence Day is a “transition that is so tough and so Israeli, we manage but for a moment to truly be one.
“We manage for a moment to not let any division get between us. And if we could do it yesterday, and we can do it tomorrow, I believe we can manage to do it every day; to choose to see the good in each other, to choose to brighten people’s faces, to choose partnership over division, to be together in this home for us all.”
The national Independence Day ceremony is now starting in Jerusalem.
You can watch a live stream with English here on i24:
Hebrew-speaking viewers and/or those in Israel can watch here:
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky says that Russia equating him to Adolf Hitler and suggesting that he and others in the country’s leadership are antisemites is a continuation of Nazi Joseph Goebbels’ propaganda tactics.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Sunday that Hitler had “Jewish blood,” and on Tuesday the foreign ministry accused Israel of backing “the neo-Nazi regime in Kyiv.” Zelensky is Jewish.
Speaking to Fox News, Zelensky says Moscow is “following the same concept of Goebbels and they are using the same methodology” in the effort to justify the war on Ukraine.
He adds: “I think the reaction of the world is still weak to these remarks by Lavrov.”
Israel will transition from Memorial Day to Independence Day in less than an hour, with the annual torch-lighting ceremony at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem opening the nationwide celebrations of its 74th year.
The event will feature the traditional musical and dance performances as well as speeches by torch-lighters chosen to represent the best of the country.
This year, in a first, the ceremony will not end with a fireworks show, in a nod to sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder, many of whom are unnerved by the sounds of explosions in the sky.
US President Joe Biden says he is “open” to imposing more sanctions on Russia and will be discussing measures with allies from the G7 in the next few days.
“We’re always open to additional sanctions,” Biden says shortly after the European Union announces plans for banning Russian oil imports and other new measures punishing Moscow for its bloody invasion of Ukraine.
“I’ll be speaking to members of the G7 this week about what we’re going to do or not,” Biden tells reporters.
A Hamas delegation lands in Moscow to meet with officials in the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The delegation is made up of Hamas officials based outside of Gaza.
Hamas has seen its ties with Russia improve in recent years. Last month, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh held a rare phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The mayor of the destroyed Ukrainian city of Mariupol says that contact has been lost with Ukrainian forces holed up in the Azovstal steel plant amid fierce battles with Russian troops.
“Unfortunately, yes, there is heavy fighting in Azovstal today,” Vadym Boichenko tells Ukrainian television.
He says city officials had “lost contact” with Ukrainian forces inside the plant and had no way of knowing “what’s going on, whether they are safe or not.”
The Ukrainian military says that Russian forces had launched an offensive to rout troops inside Azovstal shortly after the United Nations and Red Cross confirmed that more than 100 civilians had been evacuated from the plant.
Russia confirms it was attacking Ukrainian positions at the plant with “artillery and aircraft” but earlier Wednesday the Kremlin denied Russia was storming Azovstal.
Boichenko says Russia was attacking with heavy artillery, tanks, and war planes, adding that war ships next to coastal steel works were also involved in the attack.
“There are local residents there, civilians, hundreds of them there. There are children waiting for rescue. There are more than 30 kids,” the mayor adds.
Mariupol is among the most badly hit cities of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The driver of a truck that overturned on a highway near Ashdod Tuesday, killing three, is suspected of negligent homicide and reckless operation of a motor vehicle, police say, as their investigation into the crash continueds
The driver’s remand has been extended until Sunday following a court hearing.
A pair of rival Bedouin families in Rahat have reached a sulha according to which they have agreed to end their hostilities in honor of Eid al-Fitr, Ynet reports.
The clashes between the Al-Bahiri and the Al-Aubrah families reached a peak in recent days when a relative of the former family fired at members of the latter clan as they sat in a cafe in Rahat. The suspect was arrested in the incident, but hasn’t been charged.
Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia president Rabbi Alexander Boroda, calls for “an end of usage of national origin of opponents, as well as references to the history of the Second World War” after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s comments regarding Hitler and Jews.
Boroda says the Holocaust “requires proper protection and piety, because the echoes of those events are still an open wound for the peoples of the world.”
“Such national markers are inherently explosive and can aggravate inter-ethnic relations in the international arena and both within the country and society,” he says in a statement, which avoids explicitly criticizing Lavrov.
“If contentious historical debates were acceptable until recently, now that perception of facts is too inflamed, they are completely impermissible. They bring devastating destructive effects on horizontal connections in societies and on human relationships.”
“Even when such statements are made without any ill intent, they become a powerful catalyst for further destructive action.”
“Under any circumstances the Jewish community will guard the sanctity of the Holocaust’s tragedy, remember both the murderers, stained by the blood of millions of innocent victims, and the heroes who stopped the machine of death.”
The Israel Police issues a somewhat rare English statement, saying recent days have brought “incitement to violence being spread on social media, combined with many false publications about the Temple Mount, in order to stir up the area and incite violence and disorder.”
“These publications are distributed, among other things, by terror organizations that try to exploit the Temple Mount and young people for their own personal gain,” police say.
The police do not specify which reports they’re referring to, but Israel has been regularly pushing back against claims in recent months that it is trying to change the status quo at the Temple Mount, where Muslims are allowed to pray whereas non-Muslims can only visit.
Tomorrow, the site is set to reopen to non-Muslim visitors for the first time in nearly two weeks, with Hamas warning that Jewish visits will be met with a response.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s senior adviser Mykhailo Podolyak mocks the Russian Foreign Ministry for claiming earlier today that Israeli mercenaries are fighting alongside Ukraine’s far-right Azov brigade.
“In April, 3.5 tons of cocaine smuggled into Russia were seized in Estonia. It seems that the cocaine shortage has forced the Foreign Ministry to move on to something more heavier,” Podolyak tweets.
Israeli troops arrest three suspects who smuggled several weapons from Jordan, the military says.
According to the Israel Defense Forces, troops spotted the three suspects near the Palestinian town of al-Auja, north of the West Bank city of Jericho.
IDF soldiers and police officers arrested the men, who were found to be carrying a bag with 10 handguns. The suspects have been taken in for questioning.
Ukraine is accusing Russia of planning to hold a military parade in the captured city of Mariupol on May 9 to celebrate victory over the Nazis in World War II.
Kyiv says an official from Russia’s presidential administration had arrived in the strategic southern port city, which has been largely destroyed in Russia’s more than two-month invasion of Ukraine, to oversee plans for the Victory Day parade.
“Mariupol will become a center of ‘celebration,'” Ukraine’s military intelligence says in a statement on social media.
“The central streets of the city are urgently being cleaned of debris, bodies and unexploded ordnance,” it adds.
Mariupol is among the most battered cities in Ukraine. A group of Ukrainian forces are still holding out in its Azovstal steel plant.
“A large-scale propaganda campaign is underway. Russians will be shown stories about the ‘joy’ of locals from meeting the occupiers,” the military intelligence statement says.
Russians celebrate Victory Day every year on May 9 with military parades and public events commemorating the anniversary of the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.
Moscow has previously said the purpose of its invasion of Ukraine is to “de-militarize” and “de-Nazify” Ukraine.
Police say they have arrested a pair of teenagers from Haifa who tried to burn Israeli flags after taking them down from an electricity pole in the city.
The suspects, 15 and 17, will be brought before the Haifa Magistrate’s Court for a remand hearing later today.
Speaking after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the Mount Herzl ceremony for terror victims, the head of the national organization for terror victims Abie Moses apologizes to the premier for the heckling he was forced to endure.
But one of the hecklers can be heard shouting “we’re not sorry!” in response.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is heckled repeatedly before and during his speech at the Mount Herzl Memorial Day ceremony for terror victims.
Between the shouts, the premier notes that all Israelis are on the frontlines in the ongoing battle against terrorism.
“The battlefield has its own rules, but unfortunately, in Israel, the nation is part of the front. Since the dawn of Zionism and the return of Zion, our enemies have not come to terms with our existence here. They think if they kill us, we’re going to break at some point. How wrong they are,” says Bennett.
“If only our enemies invested in building their futures even a tenth of the energy they put into disturbing us, their situation would be completely different. But they choose the sanctification of death, which leaves them to wallow in poverty, squalor, and a constant sense of sacrifice,” he says.
Israel’s core responsibility, Bennett says, is to “remain steadfast on our soil.”
A handful of people in the crowd at the Mount Herzl Memorial Day ceremony for victims of terror are heckling Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as he tries to give his speech.
The shouting continues for several minutes, with the hecklers calling him a “conman” and hurling other insults at him.
The interruptions upset other bereaved families participating in the ceremony who shout at the hecklers to be quiet.
Bennett responds in a similar manner to Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, who was also heckled earlier today.
“Bereaved families are holy and you are allowed to shout, you are allowed to hurt. Beloved families, I love you dearly. I hear your pain,” he says.
מהומה בטקס בהר הרצל כשראש הממשלה בנט עולה לנאום pic.twitter.com/IzLdpXeMvD
— אהרן רבינוביץ (@AronRabino1) May 4, 2022
Russia says it has banned entry to several dozen Japanese officials, including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, after Tokyo joined international sanctions against Moscow over its military campaign in Ukraine.
“The administration of F. Kishida launched an unprecedented anti-Russian campaign (and) allows unacceptable rhetoric against the Russian Federation, including slander and direct threats,” the foreign ministry says in a statement.
“It is echoed by public figures, experts, representatives of Japanese media, who are completely engaged by the attitudes of the West towards our country,” the ministry adds.
It accused Tokyo of taking “practical steps aimed at dismantling good neighborly ties, damaging the Russian economy and the international prestige of the country.”
The ministry says it was “indefinitely” banning from Russia 63 Japanese citizens, including the prime minister, cabinet members, lawmakers, journalists and professors.
European Council President Charles Michel pledges to increase EU military aid to Moldova, Ukraine’s neighbor, which has seen a series of attacks in a pro-Moscow separatist region.
“This year we plan to significantly increase our support to Moldova by providing its armed forces with additional military equipment,” Michel tells a press conference with Moldova’s President Maia Sandu during a visit to the country.
Michel says the EU will up support in the “field of logistics, of cyber defense” and will seek to provide “more military-building capacities” to Moldova, without going into further detail.
“The EU stands in full solidarity with you, with Moldova. It is our European duty to help and to support your country,” Michel says, adding that the bloc will help Moldova “cope with the consequences of the spillover from the Russian aggression in Ukraine.”
Last week, Moldova’s separatist region of Transnistria reported explosions hitting the security ministry, a military unit and a Russian-owned radio tower as well as shots fired at a village housing a Russian arms depot, which Moscow called “acts of terrorism.”
The self-proclaimed republic of Transnistria bordering Ukraine seceded from Moldova in 1992 after a brief war with Chisinau. Around 1,500 Russian soldiers have been based there ever since.
Fears of a spillover from the Ukraine conflict grew after a Russian general said the Kremlin’s military campaign — launched on February 24 — aimed to create a land corridor through southern Ukraine to Transnistria.
Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency reports that Swedish-Iranian national Ahmad Reza Jalali will be executed by May 21 at the latest.
Jalali was arrested in 2016 and sentenced to death for working with the Mossad to help the spy agency assassinate several Iranian nuclear scientists, according to Iranian authorities.
Jalali issued a live confession in 2017, though critics argue that it was staged and Amnesty International has criticized the nature of the trial.
Andy Vermaut shares:Swedish-Iranian Jalali to be executed on spying charges by May 21: Report: Swedish-Iranian national Ahmad Reza Jalali is to be executed May 21 at the latest, Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency said on Wednesday, citing… https://t.co/0Fe6rFyUNB #andyvermaut pic.twitter.com/FEI33USlte
— Andy Vermaut (@AndyVermaut) May 4, 2022
A group of 22 Jewish members of the Democratic caucus in the US House of Representatives have issued a statement tearing into Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov over his comments earlier this week on Hitler and the Jews.
“The blatant antisemitism in recent comments by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is appalling but sadly not surprising. Lavrov, Vladimir Putin, and the Russian regime are doing everything they can to divert attention from their unprovoked, unlawful invasion of Ukraine and the failings of their military in the face of a heroic Ukrainian response,” the lawmakers say in a statement
“Defaulting to antisemitic tropes, including blaming the Jews for the Holocaust and using the Holocaust to cover their own war crimes, reflects the gutless depravity of the Russian regime. Lavrov’s remarks on Italian TV were an affront to the memory of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis, the survivors of the Holocaust, their families, and the entire world Jewish community.”
The statement is signed by Reps. Auchincloss, Bonamici, Cicilline, Deutch, Frankel, Gottheimer, Jacobs, Levin (CA), Levin (MI), Lowenthal, Manning, Nadler, Raskin, Schakowsky, Schiff, Schneider, Schrier, Sherman, Slotkin, Wasserman Schultz, Wild and Yarmuth.
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked is heckled during her Memorial Day ceremony speech at a military cemetery in Petah Tikva.
“Go home. Disgusting. You should be embarrassed,” a man is heard shouting.
Shaked takes the heckling in stride, “It’s okay. Bereaved families are holy. They are allowed to express their pain.”
Such interruptions have become relatively common in recent years, including when members of previous governments spoke at Memorial Day ceremonies.
צעקות לעבר איילת שקד במהלך נאומה בבית העלמין סגולה: "תלכי הביתה, גועל נפש, תתביישי לך". שקד השיבה: "המשפחות השכולות הן קדושות, מותר להן להביע את כאבן".
במקביל, במהלך נאומו של בנט בטקס המרכזי בהר הרצל הונף שלט בו נכתב: "מי שהקים ממשלה עם תומכי טרור לא רצוי פה" pic.twitter.com/OrUfn1evJR
— Shlomo Livne שלמה ליבנה (@meinisrael) May 4, 2022
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at a Memorial Day ceremony on Mount Herzl, using the opportunity to stress the importance of national unity, as he did last night.
“Our people yearn for unity,” he says.
“Now more than ever, we are required to strengthen the fabric that weaves us all into one nation and must prove that it is possible to act together not only on the battlefields, but in the living spaces.”
“Unity is the foundation of our power.”
A spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry claims Israeli mercenaries are fighting alongside the far-right Azov Regiment in Ukraine, further fueling tensions with Israel after Russia suggested Adolf Hitler had “Jewish blood.”
“Israeli mercenaries are practically shoulder to shoulder with Azov militants in Ukraine,” Maria Zakharova tells pro-Kremlin Sputnik radio in an interview.
Azov rose to prominence in 2014, when its far-right activists took up arms to fight pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region but have since fallen under the command of Ukraine’s military.
They have been fighting alongside the Ukrainian army against Russian troops, which on February 24 launched a military campaign in the pro-Western country.
Its members are part of the Ukrainian resistance in the port city of Mariupol, holed up inside the Azovstal steel plant against which Russian forces launched a major assault on Tuesday.
By suggesting that Israelis are fighting alongside Azov — viewed by Russia as “fascists” and “Nazis” — Moscow is compounding tensions that started after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Sunday that Hitler had “Jewish blood.”
His remarks sparked outrage in Israel, which called the statement “unforgivable and outrageous” and a “terrible historical error.”
Russia’s foreign ministry on Tuesday accused Israel of backing “the neo-Nazi regime in Kyiv.” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky is of Jewish descent.
Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar appears to take a shot at far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir during his remarks at the security agency’s Memorial Day ceremony.
Last month, the Religious Zionism lawmaker issued a statement railing against Bar, accusing him of being responsible for a series of “failures” that led to a string of terror attacks and tensions in Jerusalem and Gaza.
Bar begins his Memorial Day remarks by stressing that “our power has always been in our unity. Precisely on this day when we all gather together, we must remember the danger of divisions, violent discourse and incitement that can lead us to a dangerous abysses.”
“The members of this organization will not speak or tweet. They will be a shield and will not be seen,” he says, in an apparent jab at Ben Gvir.
A Hamas delegation has set out to Moscow to meet with officials in the Russian Foreign Ministry, the Hamas-linked Safa News site reports.
The delegation is composed of Hamas officials based outside of Gaza.
Hamas has seen its ties with Russia improve in recent years. Last month, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh held a rare phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen says the EU will impose a gradual Russian oil ban in retaliation for the war in Ukraine.
“We will make sure that we phase out Russian oil in an orderly fashion,” von der Leyen says in speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg as she presented a sixth package of sanctions against Moscow to deny funding to the war effort against Ukraine.
Von der Leyen also says the EU will ask that the bloc’s 27 member states to deny Sberbank, Russia’s biggest bank, access to SWIFT, the global banking communications system.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz urges Israeli leaders to “lovingly” accept criticism from relatives of soldiers killed defending the country, as Memorial Day commemorations are held for fallen troops and terror victims.
“What is the importance of national memory?” Gantz asks during an event at Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem this morning. “There is one answer: life. We remember all these beautiful moments with our cherished ones because this is the way to bring them back to life.”
“This movement, between death and life, is also part of our story here,” he added.
“They are our story.”
Sirens are set to wail across the country at 11 a.m. as many Israelis gather in cemeteries for daytime Memorial Day ceremonies.
Ceremonies are also being held in schools for students.
Fifty-six soldiers have died during their military service since Israel’s last Memorial Day. Another 84 disabled veterans died due to complications from injuries sustained during their service.
The numbers brought the total of those who have died during service to the country since 1860 to 24,068.
Thirty-three names were also added to the list of terror victims who perished in attacks in the past year. Another four disabled victims died due to complications from serious injuries they sustained in attacks, bringing the total to 3,199 since Israel was established in 1948.
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