The Times of Israel liveblogged events Saturday as they unfolded.
Gantz vows to capture Elad terrorists and ‘all those involved’ in attack
Defense Minister Benny Gantz vows that Israel will capture the two suspected terrorists who carried out a deadly attack in Elad on Thursday, killing three people, and “all those involved” in the incident, says a Defense Ministry statement.
Gantz held a meeting with top military and security officials earlier Saturday as the manhunt for the terrorists continues some 48 hours after the attack. Military chief Aviv Kohavi, Shin Bet security agency head Ronen Bar, and other top IDF commanders and ministry officials took part in the meeting.
“We will capture the terrorists and hit everyone involved in this incident,” Gantz says in the statement. “We are in the midst of a tense [period] facing [a] brutal terror [wave]. The IDF, the Shin Bet and the Police are cooperating… and we are examining and considering our steps.”
The search for the suspected terrorists expanded from the area immediately around Elad to also include a number of nearby Arab communities and the area of the West Bank security barrier.
A senior police official told the Ynet news site on Saturday that “as the hours go by, we are focusing more efforts on intelligence, even though we are still continuing our searches with large forces on the ground and in the air.”
The report said security services were hoping that Palestinian suspects As’ad Yousef As’ad al-Rifa’i, 19, and Subhi Emad Subhi Abu Shqeir, 20, would soon make an error and expose their whereabouts. Both are from the village Rumana outside Jenin in the northern West Bank.
Suggested scenarios included the two moving to a new location, or seeking assistance from relatives or local residents.
Bennett said to refuse Ukraine request to cancel ‘Victory Day’ event in Israel
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has refused a request by Ukraine to cancel or bring forward an event for “Victory Day” in Israel, Channel 12 reports.
Victory Day, marked in Russia on May 9, is the country’s most important secular holiday, commemorating the Soviet Red Army’s determination and losses in World War II.
Israel also holds events on that day for immigrants from Russia and former Soviet countries, military veterans among them. The UK, the US, France and other countries hold Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day) on May 8, when Germany surrendered to Allied forces.
The main ceremony for Victory Day in Israel is held at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl National Cemetery, an event to which envoys for the former Soviet republics and other countries who participated in WWII are always invited.
Both Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky relayed messages to Bennett asking to hold the event on May 8, with other countries, or cancel it altogether, Channel 12 says. The Prime Minister’s Office denied the request, according to the report.
This development comes as ties between Jerusalem and Moscow became tense this past week following Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s claim Sunday that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler had Jewish blood.
Israel strongly denounced the top diplomat’s false claims, meant to justify the invasion of a country Russia has claimed is led by Nazis, but whose president is Jewish. Russia initially doubles down on the claim, but Putin has since apologized in a call with Bennett.
The Israeli Absorption Ministry said earlier this week that the ceremony at Mount Herzl and all other events will take place as scheduled on May 9 amid reports that no foreign dignitaries were invited this year.
About 1.5 million Jews fought in Allied armies during World War II, including 500,000 in the Red Army, 550,000 in the US army, 100,000 in the Polish army and 30,000 in the British army, according to Yad Vashem.
Some of those who fought in the Red Army served in the highest levels of command. About 200,000 Soviet Jewish soldiers fell on the battlefield or into German captivity. Those who survived built families and careers in the Soviet Union, until the Communist regime collapsed and many of them ended up in Israel.
Military prepares to demolish homes of suspected terrorists behind Ariel attack
The Israeli military has informed the families of two alleged Palestinian terrorists that their homes in the West Bank town of Qarawat Bani Hassan are slated for demolition.
Yousef Assi’s and Yahya Marei’s families are given the chance to appeal the demolition order.
The pair are accused of carrying out a deadly shooting attack last Friday at the entrance of the West Bank settlement of Ariel, in which an Israeli security guard, Vyacheslav Golev, was killed.
Coalition to fall apart if settlements home plans not advanced, officials tell US
If the government fails to advance plans to build nearly 4,000 settlement homes in the West Bank, the coalition will fall apart, Israeli officials relay to the Biden administration, Channel 12 reports.
The officials convey that the coalition — which is already teetering following the exit of former whip Idit Silman — needed to meet its commitments to right-wing parties and voters in the wide coalition headed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, and that should it fail to do so, the government would fall, the report says.
The Biden administration warned Friday that the plan to build settlement homes “deeply damages the prospects for a two-state solution.”
On Friday, the Defense Ministry body that authorizes settlement construction released the agenda for its next meeting next Thursday, revealing that it is slated to green-light 2,536 homes through the final planning stage, while advancing another 1,452 homes through an earlier stage in the permitting process known as deposit.
According to Channel 12, the initial plan was for a total of 5,800 homes, reduced to 4,000 following discussions with American officials. Israel has also promised 1,000 housing units for Palestinians, according to the report.
An Israeli official said Friday that Bennett’s office notified the Biden administration ahead of time of its plans to reconvene the Defense Ministry body that authorizes settlement construction.
Channel 12 reports that Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz tried to time the announcement well before Biden’s planned visit to Israel in over a month but after the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.
Terrorists told Israeli victim who drove them they were doing renovations at Elad synagogue
Adding some additional information regarding the Elad axe attack, and victim Oren Ben Yiftah’s unwitting transporting of the terrorists to the city, Channel 12 news says that the two killers telephoned Ben Yiftah on Thursday and told him they needed a ride to Elad for work.
They said they were doing urgent renovation work on the synagogue on Yehuda Hanassi Street in Elad, the report says, and Ben Yiftah, who had driven them several times in the past, believed them.
He collected the two from near the security barrier, a short drive to the east of Elad, and drove them to the city. When they got near the synagogue, they attacked him with an axe and a knife. He fought back, injuring one of them, but they overcame him and killed him.
They then continued their terror rampage, killing two other men. As of Saturday night, they are still on the loose.
They are said to know the city and the surrounding area well.
Israel extends general closure on West Bank, Gaza
Israel extends the general closure on West Bank and Gaza Palestinians until Monday, the Defense Ministry says.
Israel largely shuttered the Palestinian crossings into Israel on Tuesday and Wednesday for Memorial Day and Independence Day. Authorities later extended the shutdown until Saturday night following the terror attack in the central city of Elad.
Exceptions will be made for medical and humanitarian emergencies, says COGAT, the Defense Ministry’s liaison to the Palestinians.
The shutdown only applies to Palestinians. Checkpoints used by Israelis and foreign nationals will remain open as usual.
Most of the Palestinians impacted are those who hold permits to work in Israel. About 140,000 Palestinians work in Israel and in Israeli settlements.
Liberman says ex-PM Netanyahu prevented targeted killings of Hamas leaders
Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, head of the Yisrael Beytenu party, says former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu shot down suggestions to target Hamas leaders for assassination during his time as premier. It was not clear which time frame Liberman was referring to.
Liberman tells Channel 12 Netanyahu was the one who approved the release of the terror group’s current leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, as part of the prisoner exchange deal for Gilad Shalit back in 2011.
Sinwar has spent decades in an Israeli prison after being convicted in 1989 of conducting the kidnapping and execution of two Israeli soldiers. He was known by his Israeli interrogators as “the Butcher from Khan Younis” due to his enthusiastic execution of Palestinians alleged to have collaborated with Israel.
Liberman says any resumption of targeted killings of terror leaders needs to be discussed in the security cabinet.
Israeli officials have reportedly indirectly warned Sinwar that it could retaliate against the group for encouraging a series of recent deadly terror attacks.
While Hamas has not taken responsibility for most of the attacks since March 22 that have left 19 people in Israel and the West Bank dead, terror group chief Yahya Sinwar has repeatedly called for Palestinians to assault Israelis and the group has publicly praised the perpetrators, encouraging more attacks.
The terror group also claimed responsibility for an attack that killed a security officer guarding the West Bank settlement of Ariel on April 29.
According to Channel 12 news, diplomatic and security officials relayed a message to Sinwar that the Ariel attack, coupled with his messages championing terror, gave Israel freedom to respond militarily in Gaza.
Women, children, elderly evacuated from steel plant in Ukraine’s Mariupol
KYIV — Ukraine says that all women, children, and elderly civilians were evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant in the destroyed port city of Mariupol where Ukrainian forces are holding out against Russian troops.
“The President’s order has been carried out: all women, children and the elderly have been evacuated from Azovstal. This part of the Mariupol humanitarian mission has been completed,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk says in a statement on social media.
The Azovstal steel mill is the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in the devastated port city and its fate has taken on a symbolic value in the broader battle since Russia’s invasion.
Vereshchuk said Friday that 50 people had been evacuated from the sprawling steelworks. The Russian defense ministry said that 11 among them were children, removed as part of a mission coordinated with the UN and Red Cross.
The last estimates suggested that about 200 civilians were still trapped in the Soviet-era tunnels and bunkers beneath the sprawling Azovstal factory, along with a group of Ukrainian soldiers making their last stand.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday that “diplomatic options” were underway to rescue Ukrainian soldiers from the Mariupol steelworks, as civilian evacuations continued.
Two injured in shooting said to be related to criminal activity in Rosh Ha’ayin
Two people are injured in a shooting near the Rosh Ha’ayin train station, suspected of being connected to criminal activity in the city, reports in the Hebrew-language media say.
Magen David Adom says medics treated two people in their 30s, one of whom was critically injured.
Gantz meets with military, security officials as hunt underway for terrorists
Defense Minister Benny Gantz is currently holding a meeting with top military and security officials on the manhunt for the terrorists who are believed to have carried out the murders in Elad on Thursday, his office says.
The closures of the crossings with the West Bank and Gaza Strip are also being discussed.
The closure was supposed to end on Thursday night after Independence Day, but due to the deadly terror attack in Elad, Gantz decided that it will continue until Sunday, at the earliest.
Military chief Aviv Kohavi, Shin Bet security agency head Ronen Bar, and other top IDF commanders and ministry officials are taking part in the meeting.
Police tell public to avoid nature areas near Elad, release new photo of suspects
Police ask the public to avoid hiking and visiting nature areas near Elad, where a manhunt for two Palestinian terrorists is taking place.
Helicopters and drones are assisting the security forces in scanning the area, police say.
“The public is asked to refrain from walking and meeting in nature in those areas, which are also closed to vehicular traffic,” a statement says.
Police also publish a more recent photograph of the two suspected Palestinian terrorists, who are accused of killing three and severely wounding several others in the ultra-Orthodox town on Thursday night.
France’s Macron inaugurated for second five-year term
PARIS — President Emmanuel Macron was inaugurated for a second term on Saturday, vowing to first take action to avoid any further escalation of Russia’s war in Ukraine before going on to focus on promoting France and Europe on the world stage.
Macron was reelected for five years on April 24 in a runoff that saw him beat out far-right rival Marine Le Pen.
“The time ahead will be that of resolute action for France and for Europe,” Macron said. He promised to “first take action to avoid any escalation following Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.”
Macron vowed to “take action relentlessly with a goal, which is to be a more independent nation, to live better and to build our own French and European responses to the century’s challenges.”
Macron also promised to find a “fair method” to govern the country and ease social tensions by making the government and parliament work together with unions, associations and other people from the political, economic, social and cultural world.
Riyadh to invest millions in Israeli tech via Jared Kushner’s new fund — report
Saudi Arabia is planning to allocate millions of dollars for investments in Israeli tech companies via Jared Kushner’s new private equity firm, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal which cites people familiar with the investment plan.
Kushner, the son-in-law of former US president Doland Trump and an ex-senior adviser, set up Affinity Partners late last year, raising some $3 billion in committed funding from international investors, including the Saudis.
The WSJ report says Riyadh has eyed two Israeli companies for investment, though the names of the firms were not disclosed, nor the sectors in which they operate.
The report says the investment is “the first known instance that the Saudi Public Investment Fund’s cash will be directed to Israel, a sign of the kingdom’s increasing willingness to do business with the country, even though they have no diplomatic relations.”
Last December, The New York Times reported that Affinity Partners has hired some 20 people, and plans to focus on US-based investments as well as those in the Middle East. The report said the Saudi Arabian $450 billion Public Investment Fund was negotiating with Kushner over what could prove to be a sizable investment in Affinity Partners, according to two sources.
Earlier this year, it was reported that Kushner would also open an office in Israel that will promote business ties between Israel, India, Gulf states, and North Africa.
One of Kushner’s last acts as an adviser to Trump was leading the brokering of normalization deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, dubbed the Abraham Accords.
Kushner also took a leading role in running Trump’s campaigns in 2016 and 2020, but has signaled that he is not going to be involved in a possible Trump campaign in 2024.
Egypt says 11 troops killed in militant attack in Sinai
CAIRO — Egypt’s military says at least 11 troops, including an officer, have been killed in a militant attack in the restive northern part of the Sinai Peninsula.
The military said in a statement that the militants attacked a water pumping station Saturday east of the Suez Canal. It did not give further details on the location.
The statement says security forces clashed with the attacking militants. It says at least five other troops were wounded in the attack. Troops were pursuing the militants in an isolated area in Sinai, it added.
No group has claimed responsibility for Saturday’s ambush, one of the deadliest attacks against Egyptian security forces in recent years.
Last week, suspected militants blew up a natural gas pipeline in Northern Sinai’s town of Bir al-Abd, causing a fire but no casualties.
Egypt is battling an Islamic State-led insurgency in the Sinai that intensified after the military overthrew an elected but divisive Islamist president in 2013. The militants have carried out scores of attacks, mainly targeting security forces and Christians.
The pace of militant attacks in Sinai’s main theater of operations and elsewhere has slowed to a trickle since February 2018, when the military launched a massive operation in Sinai as well as parts of the Nile Delta and deserts along the country’s western border with Libya.
The fight against militants in Sinai has largely taken place hidden from the public eye, with journalists, non-residents and outside observers barred from the area. The conflict has also been kept at a distance from tourist resorts at the southern end of the peninsula.
Hamas threatens return to suicide bombings if Israel resumes targeted killings
Palestinian terror group Hamas threatens to return to suicide bombings and to “burn” Israeli cities if Jerusalem resumes its policy of targeted killings of senior terror figures.
“We will burn the cities in [the country’s] center and launch missiles at Tel Aviv and Gush Dan if Israel acts on its threats, those of which surpasses the enemy’s imagination,” Hamas warns, according to the Kan public broadcaster, which cites the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen TV station.
“The return of assassinations means the return of the explosive operations inside [Israeli] cities,” Hamas told Egyptian mediators, sources tell to al-Mayadeen.
The group’s military wing also issues a threat for an “unprecedented response” should Israel attempt to harm any of its top leadership, especially Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar.
The May 2021 war between the two sides “will be but an ordinary event compared to what the enemy will witness,” says Abu Obeida, the spokesperson for the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades.
Some Israeli pundits have advocated killing Sinwar in response to the recent terror wave, which he has urged on from the coastal enclave.
Abu Obeida further vows that Israel would pay in “blood and destruction” for such a strike.
Israeli intelligence has conducted numerous targeted killing operations over the country’s 74-year history. Use of the tool peaked during the Second Intifada when Israeli forces took out Hamas leaders in an attempt to staunch a wave of attacks in Israeli cities.
The terror group’s threat comes after Israeli officials have reportedly indirectly warned that Israel could retaliate Hamas for encouraging a series of deadly terror attacks in recent weeks.
While Hamas has not taken responsibility for most of the attacks since March 22 that have left 19 people in Israel and the West Bank dead, Sinwar has repeatedly called for Palestinians to assault Israelis and the group has publicly praised the perpetrators, encouraging more attacks.
The terror group also claimed responsibility for an attack that killed a security officer guarding the West Bank settlement of Ariel on April 29.
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