At Cairo talks, Palestinian factions call for elections by end of 2018
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At Cairo talks, Palestinian factions call for elections by end of 2018

Leaders from 13 factions, including Hamas and Fatah, meet in Egypt to discuss return of PA to Gaza

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

  • Fatah's Azzam al-Ahmad, right, and Saleh al-Arouri, left, of Hamas talk to journalists after signing a reconciliation deal in Cairo on October 12, 2017, as the two rival Palestinian movements ended their decade-long split following negotiations overseen by Egypt. (AFP/Khaled Desouki)
    Fatah's Azzam al-Ahmad, right, and Saleh al-Arouri, left, of Hamas talk to journalists after signing a reconciliation deal in Cairo on October 12, 2017, as the two rival Palestinian movements ended their decade-long split following negotiations overseen by Egypt. (AFP/Khaled Desouki)
  • Alleged head of a Jewish extremist group Meir Ettinger appears in the Magistrate's Court in Nazareth Illit, August 4, 2015. (AP/Ariel Schalit)
    Alleged head of a Jewish extremist group Meir Ettinger appears in the Magistrate's Court in Nazareth Illit, August 4, 2015. (AP/Ariel Schalit)
  • This August 30, 2017 photo shows Rohingya refugees reaching for food aid at Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhiya near the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. (AFP PHOTO / STR)
    This August 30, 2017 photo shows Rohingya refugees reaching for food aid at Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhiya near the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. (AFP PHOTO / STR)
  • Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit speaks during the farewell ceremony for Supreme Court President Miriam Naor in Jerusalem on October 26, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit speaks during the farewell ceremony for Supreme Court President Miriam Naor in Jerusalem on October 26, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Egyptian Ambassador to Israel Hazem Khairat speaking at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, November 22, 2017 (Mark Neiman)
    Egyptian Ambassador to Israel Hazem Khairat speaking at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, November 22, 2017 (Mark Neiman)
  • Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, left, arrives to attend a military parade to mark the 74th anniversary of Lebanon's independence from France in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017 (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
    Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, left, arrives to attend a military parade to mark the 74th anniversary of Lebanon's independence from France in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017 (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.

UN court convicts Mladic of genocide over Bosnia’s horrors

UN judges sentence former Bosnian Serbian commander Ratko Mladic to life imprisonment after finding him guilty of genocide and war crimes in the brutal Balkans conflicts over two decades ago.

The trial of the man dubbed “The Butcher of Bosnia” was the last before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and comes as the court prepares to close its doors next month.

The court find him guilty on 10 counts including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the 1992-1995 war that killed 100,000 people and displaced 2.2 million as ethnic rivalries tore apart Yugoslavia. But they found him not guilty of genocide in the municipalities.

“For having committed these crimes, the chamber sentences Mr Ratko Mladic to life imprisonment,” presiding judge Alphons Orie says, adding the crimes were “amongst the most heinous known to human kind.”

— AFP

UN Syria envoy plans 2 rounds of talks

The United Nations’ Syria envoy says he plans to host two rounds of peace talks in Geneva next month between President Bashar Assad’s government and the weakened opposition.

The talks come as Syria-friendly Russia takes an increasing diplomatic role in efforts to end the 6-1/2-year war.

Staffan de Mistura made the comments Wednesday while addressing a meeting of the main Syrian opposition groups in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. He also urged them to come together in a “strong and creative” opposition for the talks.

Alluding to the U.N.-mediated negotiations, de Mistura says: “We want to show and we want to show through you that this is the way the future of Syria can be decided.”

— AP

Police to compensate crime boss NIS 10,000 over disputed arrest

The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court approves a compromise deal that will see police compensate gang leader Amir Mulner NIS 10,000 ($2,800) over a disputed arrest last year.

A known crime figure in Israel, Mulner filed a NIS 2.5 million lawsuit for what he claimed was an illegal August 2016 arrest during which the police didn’t identify themselves as such.

State prosecutors denied wrongdoing during Mulner’s arrest, but agreed to the compromise at the recommendation of the judge, who reprimanded the arresting officers for their conduct.

N. Korea says US terror sponsor label a ‘serious provocation’

North Korea condemns its US terror listing as a “serious provocation,” warning that sanctions would never force it to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

US President Donald Trump this week declared North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism, restoring it to a spot on a US blacklist Pyongyang had shed nearly a decade ago.

“Our army and people are full of rage and anger towards the heinous gangsters who dared to put the name of our sacred country in this wretched list of ‘terrorism,'” state news agency KCNA quotes a foreign ministry spokesperson as saying.

Slamming Washington for behaving like an “international judge on terrorism,” the spokesperson adds that the US move was “clearly an absurdity and a mockery to world peace and security.”

“The nuclear weapons of the DPRK are the deterrence to safeguard our sovereignty,” the report says.

“As long as the US continues with its anti-DPRK hostile policy, our deterrence will be further strengthened.”

— AFP

Bosnian prime minister welcomes Mladic guilty verdict

Bosnian Prime Minister Denis Zvizdic welcomes the verdict against former Bosnian Serb military chief Gen. Ratko Mladic, who was found guilty by a UN war crimes tribunal of crimes against humanity and genocide during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war.

Zvizdic said in a statement that the verdict “confirmed that war criminals cannot escape justice regardless of how long they hide.”

Zvizdic says Mladic’s life sentence “will not bring back to life thousands of killed innocent civilians nor will it bring comfort to their families, but it is of immense importance for the future of (the Balkans) as a deterrent to all those who dream of future wars and continue to stoke ethnic tensions.”

— AP

Egypt detains 29 Muslim Brotherhood members for allegedly spying for Turkey

Egyptian prosecutors order a two-week detention for 29 suspected members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood on charges they spied for Turkey.

A prosecution statement says the 29 illegally facilitated international calls made by people in Egypt through Turkish-based servers offered at discounted charges. The statement accuses them of then eavesdropping on the calls to gather information on conditions in Egypt that they passed onto Turkish intelligence.

The money earned from the calls was allegedly also used to set up media platforms outside Egypt that used the information to spread fake news and rumors to incite Egyptians against their government.

Egypt and Turkey have been at loggerheads since the military’s 2013 ouster of an Islamist president who hails from the Brotherhood and enjoyed the support of Turkey.

— AP

Egyptian envoy says peace with Israel incomplete without Palestinian state

Egypt’s ambassador to Israel urges Jerusalem to restate its commitment to a two-state solution and accept the terms of the Arab Peace Initiative, saying the peace agreement with his own country remains incomplete without an independent Palestinian state.

“In the absence of a just solution to the Palestinian problem, never will there be a durable and just peace,” Hazem Khairat says in Tel Aviv, paraphrasing Egyptian president Anwar Sadat’s groundbreaking speech to the Knesset 40 years ago. “We cannot attempt to achieve partial peace and export the whole problem to future generations.”

Khairat also urges Israel to support the reconciliation of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party with the terrorist group Hamas.

— Raphael Ahren

Activists taunt AfD politician with mini Holocaust memorial

A group of activists unveil a replica of Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial secretly erected outside the home of a far-right AfD politician who has urged Germany to stop atoning for Nazi guilt.

With 24 large concrete slabs set up in a garden next to Bjoern Hoecke’s house, the art collective “Centre for Political Beauty” says it wanted to send a daily reminder of the World War II horrors that led to deaths of six million Jews.

“We are doing our neighborly duty,” the group’s leader Philipp Ruch told the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper.

“We hope he enjoys the view every day when he looks out the window.”

The slabs are a smaller-sized replica of the famed Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, which consists of a solemn field of 2,700 grey blocks meant to evoke a cemetery.

— AFP

Mandelblit urges repealing of contentious Regulation Law

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit tells the High Court of Justice the controversial Regulation Law discriminates against Palestinians, and calls for the “unconstitutional” legislation to be repealed.

Mandelblit, who has previously voiced opposition to the legislation, says in a legal opinion the Regulation Law “does not meet constitutional criteria.”

He says the bill will “give absolute priority to the rights and interests of the settler… and result in severe discrimination against the Palestinian population.”

The law allows the Israeli government to expropriate private Palestinian land where illegal outpost homes have been built ex-post facto, provided that the outposts were built in good faith or have government support.

Analysts say the law could pave the way for the government to recognize thousands of illegally built Israeli homes in the West Bank.

Earlier this year, Mandelblit said he would not defend challenges to the Regulation Law in court.

Lebanon’s Hariri tells supporters ‘I’m staying with you’

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, back in Beirut after a mysterious odyssey that saw him announce his resignation in Saudi Arabia, tells cheering supporters that he is staying.

“I’m staying with you… we’re continuing together, to be the first line of defense for Lebanon and its stability,” Hariri, looking buoyed and combative, tells a large crowd gathered in front of his home.

“You’re teaching the world loyalty, thank you, thank you, thank you,” he said, wearing a dark blue sports jacket as he addressed hundreds of supporters waving flags with the colors of his Future Movement.

He flew in late last night after spending around two weeks in Saudi Arabia in yet to be clarified circumstances and making stops in France, Egypt and Cyprus on his way back.

Lebanon’s politicians, including some of his staunch adversaries, were uncharacteristically united in calling for his return.

He told reporters earlier today that President Michel Aoun had asked him to put his resignation on hold pending further consultations and that he had agreed to do so.

— AFP

US declares violence against Rohingya in Myanmar is ethnic cleansing

The United States is declaring that the violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar constitutes “ethnic cleansing.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says that “no provocation can justify the horrendous atrocities that have ensued.” He’s blaming Myanmar’s forces and “local vigilantes.”

Tillerson says those responsible “must be held accountable.”

US lawmakers and rights groups have been urging the Trump administration to call it ethnic cleansing. Tillerson acted on a recent recommendation from the State Department.

The declaration is likely to increase pressure on the Trump administration and Congress to move toward new sanctions on Myanmar. Sanctions on the Southeast Asian nation were eased in recent years as the country made steps toward transitioning to democracy.

More than 600,000 Rohingya from Myanmar’s Rakhine State have fled to neighboring Bangladesh amid the violence.

— AP

Barkat hails progress in East Jerusalem schools, vows to bridge education gaps

Mayor Nir Barkat hails the positive growth of schools in East Jerusalem, and vows the city will do more to “bridge educational gaps” for Jerusalem’s Palestinian population.

Barkat tells local school principals at a conference that the recent investments in local schools is leading to “unprecedented momentum” in East Jerusalem.

He says over the last year the municipality has built 79 new classrooms and the schools have been granted a NIS 1 billion loan to construct 840 additional classrooms over the next four years. According to the mayor, three new schools have been built in East Jerusalem, including a high school for the arts.”

Barkat also says that there has been a 14 percent increase in the number of students studying in the Israeli Bagrut (matriculation) program and approximately 5,500 students in East Jerusalem are currently enrolled.

“We have created an equal opportunity initiative to bridge gaps in the East Jerusalem education system, including the allocation of NIS 25 million to boost enrichment hours and promote entrepreneurial and innovative projects,” he tells East Jerusalem educators.

Likud MK kicked off Knesset committee for not backing police recommendations law

Likud MK Benny Begin is kicked off of the Knesset’s Interior Committee for not backing a contentious bill that would bar police from making indictment recommendations to state prosecutors.

The bill proposed by fellow Likud MK David Amsalem is seen as a measure to curb police authority and an effort to limit the public fallout in corruption probes against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Begin’s ouster from the committee comes in response to his saying earlier today that he would not vote in favor of the bill unless it would not apply to Netanyahu.

Last week, the bill — which faces opposition from police, the state attorney, and the attorney general — was revised in an apparent effort to shore up coalition support for it.

Putin calls for ‘compromise and concessions’ over Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin calls for “compromise and concessions” from all parties to end Syria’s six-year civil war as he opened a key summit with the leaders of Turkey and Iran in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

“It is obvious that the reform process will not be simple, it will require compromise and concessions from all parties, including obviously the Syrian government,” Putin says.

“I count on the fact that Russia, Iran and Turkey will put in their best efforts to make this work as productive as possible,” he adds.

— AFP

High school teachers strike over salaries again tomorrow

The teachers union announces a one-day strike for high schools in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Beersheba tomorrow.

The strike, the third in the last two weeks, is being called by teachers demanding higher salaries who claim the government is procrastinating over talks.

The teachers’ union representing high school staff wants an immediate monthly gross wage increase for starting teachers, from NIS 6,400 ($1,820) to NIS 8,000 ($2,275), along with a comparable raise for teachers with up to seven years experience.

The teachers claim the Finance Ministry is “refusing to reach an agreement in good faith.”

Ex-PM Barak brands Jewish Home ‘fascist,’ Bennett a ‘clown’

Former prime minister Ehud Barak slams the Jewish Home head Naftali Bennett, calling him a “clown” and saying his pro-settlement, right-wing party “has a whiff of fascism about it.”

“I don’t argue with clowns who lead delusional, nationalist parties, that have a whiff of fascism and corruption about them,” Barak tells Army Radio in an interview.

His remarks come after Bennett said on Twitter that no other prime minister “did as much damage as [Barak] did in such a short period of time.”

40 MKs sign letter urging Rivlin to reconsider Azaria pardon

Some 40 MKs have signed a letter urging President Reuven Rivlin to reconsider his decision to reject a request for pardon by a former IDF solider serving time in jail for killing a disarmed Palestinian attacker.

The letter was initiated by former MK Sharon Gal, who is friends with the family of Elor Azaria.

Among the signatories are Justice minister Ayelet Shaked, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan.

Rivlin’s decision to reject Azaria’s pardon request on Monday drew harsh criticism from senior government officials and on social media.

Saudi-led coalition to allow aid into Yemen

The Saudi-led military coalition fighting Shiite rebels in Yemen has announced it will reopen the war-torn country’s main international airport in the capital of Sanaa and a vital Red Sea port to give access to humanitarian aid.

Today’s announcement says the Sanaa airport and the port of Hodeida will reopen, starting tomorrow.

It’s been over two weeks since the Saudi-led coalition imposed the closure of all sea, air, and land ports in the Arab world’s poorest country, in response to a missile assault by the Shiite rebels that targeted the Saudi capital, Riyadh. The missile was struck down but it was the farthest a projectile by the rebels, also known as Houthis, had penetrated into the kingdom.

The coalition says the United Nations and international relief groups have demanded the coalition allow full access to hubs in Yemen so that humanitarian aid can reach those that desperately need it.

Aid groups have also warned of worsening conditions for millions of Yemenis who fully depend on the aid.

— AP

3 Jewish extremists indicted for throwing rocks at Palestinians

Three Jewish extremists are indicted on charges of aggravated assault for throwing rocks at Palestinians in the northern West Bank in 2014.

According to the indictment filed at the Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court, Meir Ettinger, Ben Zion Afarsemon and Dvir Yehuda ransacked the house of a Palestinian in the West Bank village of Burin. When the homeowner returned with a friend and began inspecting the damage, the suspects jumped out from a nearby hilltop where they had been waiting. Dvir used a sling-shot to catapult rocks in the direction of the Palestinians, while Ettinger and Afarsemon threw rocks at them.

“Subsequently, security forces arrived at the scene and the incident ended,” the indictment says, making no mention of injuries to the Palestinians.

The grandson of assassinated far-right rabbi Meir Kahane, Ettinger has been described by police as the leader of a Jewish underground bent on turning Israel into a theocracy. He is considered an early leader of Israel’s “hilltop youth” — young people who move to settlement outposts, resist evacuation attempts and have been known to carry out hate crimes on Palestinian, Christian and Israeli targets.

Ettinger was the first suspect to be arrested after a rash of extremist attacks on Palestinians and other non-Jews in Israel and the West Bank in 2015, notably the torching of the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes at Tabgha on the Sea of Galilee and the firebombing of a Palestinian home in Duma that killed three people.

— Jacob Magid

Tehran says Iran-Russia-Turkey talks will help stabilize Syria

Iran’s president says trilateral talks between Iran, Russia and Turkey will help stabilize Syria.

Hassan Rouhani, speaking after today’s talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, hailed the talks as “very useful.”

He says that the three leaders supported holding the so-called Congress of National Dialogue between Syrian factions in Sochi.

Even though Russia and Iran back Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, and Turkey supports his foes, the three countries have teamed up to try and broker a peace settlement.

Today’s talks followed Assad’s surprise visit to Russia on Monday for talks with Putin that the Kremlin said were intended to help lay the groundwork for the trilateral meeting of Russia, Turkey and Iran.

— AP

Train malfunction in Tel Aviv delays service in the center

A train that broke down at Tel Aviv’s HaShalom station has delayed service to other parts of the country.

The delay is affecting train service to Hod Hasharon, Binyamina and Rehovot.

Israel Railways says the technical problem has been fixed and that train service should return to normal in the coming hours.

Zimbabwe’s incoming leader announces ‘new democracy’

Zimbabwe’s incoming leader Emmerson Mnangagwa says the country is witnessing a “new and unfolding democracy” in his first public speech in his new role.

He is addressing a huge crowd outside ruling party headquarters, speaking hours after returning to the country. He fled earlier this month after his firing by Robert Mugabe, who resigned on Tuesday under pressure from the military and ruling party.

Mnangagwa says the pressure to “derail the process” of getting Mugabe to step down was intense but “the will of the people will always, always succeed.”

He will be sworn in Friday morning.

— AP

Ultra-Orthodox parties again threaten to topple coalition over Shabbat train work

Ultra-Orthodox parties are again threatening to leave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition if construction work on train lines would take place on the Jewish Sabbath.

According to reports in Hebrew-language media, party representatives say the governing coalition “will not survive the desecration of Shabbat.”

Last week, Health Minister Yaakov Litzman from the United Torah Judaism party threatened to resign if infrastructure work on the train lines would take place that weekend. He called off the threat several hours later after reaching a one-time compromise with the Labor Ministry.

But the Shabbat work on the rail infrastructure has sparked a series of rows between Netanyahu and the ultra-Orthodox parties in his coalition, despite the prime minister agreeing to ban all weekend construction projects on train lines in a deal struck with the parties prior to the 2015 election.

Airline defendants to pay $95 million in 9/11 settlement

Insurers for American Airlines, United Airlines and other aviation defendants agree to pay $95 million to settle claims that security lapses led planes to be hijacked in the Sept. 11 attacks.

The settlement is described in papers filed in Manhattan federal court yesterday. Developers of the new World Trade Center buildings had once demanded $3.5 billion from aviation-related companies after hijacked planes destroyed three skyscrapers among five demolished buildings on Sept. 11, 2001.

Lawyers say the agreement signed last week resulted from “extensive, arms-length negotiations” by lawyers “who worked diligently for months.” The agreement also says the parties make no admissions or concessions with respect to liability for the attacks.

“The court’s approval of the settlement agreement will bring to a close this hard-fought 13-year litigation on terms agreeable to the parties,” the lawyers say.

— AP

Damascus endorses Russian-backed Syria peace summit

The government of war-ravaged Syria welcomes a deal between the presidents of its allies Russia, Iran and rebel backer Turkey to hold a peace “congress” of regime and opposition forces.

“The Syrian government welcomes the closing statement” of the meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, says a foreign ministry source quoted by the official SANA news agency.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says that his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani have agreed to the summit, set to place before United Nations-backed talks in Geneva next week.

The congress would “gather representatives of different political parties, internal and external opposition” to discuss “the parameters of the future state,” he says.

The Syrian foreign ministry official said Syria has “always” supported “any political action that respects its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, and helps put an end to the shedding of Syrian blood.”

— AFP

Odeh says footage proves police violence at Umm al-Hiran

New footage of a deadly home demolition in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran earlier in the year shows police pepper spraying Joint (Arab) List MK Ayman Odeh in the face.

Odeh tweets the footage filmed by an Al Jazeera cameraman, saying it proves police lied about using force against him and other protesters during the protests.

“Police attacked us, pepper sprayed us directly in the eyes and then fired stun grenades,” he says. “Unfortunately, the rubber-tipped bullet that struck and injured me was not recorded.”

Home demolitions at the unauthorized Bedouin village in the Negev were disrupted in January when a car, driven by local schoolteacher Yaqoub Mousa Abu Al-Qia’an, slammed into the police line, killing one officer, 34-year-old Erez Levi, and moderately wounding another.

Police opened fire and killed Abu Al-Qia’an as the protest around them devolved into a violent riot.

In Cairo, Palestinian factions call for elections by end of 2018

Leading Palestinian political factions agree on the need to hold elections by the end of 2018, they say in a joint statement issued after two days of reconciliation talks in Cairo.

The factions call on the electoral commission to prepare for the presidential and legislative polls and also asked Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to set a date for them after consulting with all sides.

They also praise the unity agreement struck between key factions Hamas and Fatah last month aimed at ending a 10-year rift between them and under which Hamas is to cede power in the Gaza Strip by December 1.

— AFP

Mike Pence to address Knesset in upcoming visit

US Vice President Mike Pence will reportedly address the Knesset during his upcoming visit to Israel, becoming the first senior American official to speak at the Israeli parliament since former US president George W. Bush over a decade ago.

According to channel 10, US officials say Pence’s initiated the idea for the speech during his visit to Israel next month.

In addition to addressing lawmakers, Pence will also hold a working meeting with Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein.

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