The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they happened.
Police arrest owner of Jaffa paint store that exploded, killing 3
Tel Aviv police arrest the owner of a Jaffa paint store that exploded Monday night, killing three and injuring four.
Investigators initially believed an improperly installed gas canister was responsible for the explosion, which caused the one-story structure on Yefet Street in the southern Tel Aviv neighborhood to collapse and sparked a blaze and secondary explosions in the store full of flammable materials.
But on Thursday, police sources told Hebrew-language media outlets that traces of chemicals found at the site suggest the explosion may have been caused deliberately. The owner, police now say, was feuding with an unnamed party and may have set fire to his store in the context of that feud.
The dead were identified later in the week as Rimon Huri, 20, of Jaffa and Ali Abu Jama, 22, from Taibe, and Mohammed Yassin from Tulkarm.
High schools to close nationwide Sunday to protest violence against teachers
The national union of high school teachers announces a one-day nationwide strike of all high schools on Sunday over the growing phenomenon of violence directed at teachers by students.
The strike was precipitated by reports Wednesday of a student who broke a wooden bar on a teacher’s head in a school in the southern Bedouin town of Tel Sheva, the union says. The teacher lost consciousness and was hospitalized, while police have launched an investigation.
“Are we waiting until a teacher is murdered in Israel before advancing legislation that will up the punishments and deter students from attacking teachers?” Hadashot news quotes union chief Ran Erez as saying.
The union has drafted a bill that would define teachers as public servants, and thus include them under an existing law that demands heightened sentences for attacks against public servants. It is urging lawmakers to take up the bill in the current Knesset session.
Russia negotiates deal for its warplanes to use Egypt bases
MOSCOW — The Russian prime minister approves a draft agreement with Egypt that would allow Russian warplanes to use Egyptian air bases — a deal that would allow Moscow to increase its foothold in North Africa and the Middle East.
A directive signed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev that is published on an official Russian legal portal on Thursday endorses the draft agreement prepared by Russia’s Defense Ministry and instructs it to sign the deal with Egypt when it’s ready.
The Russia-Egypt agreement would allow each country’s warplanes to use the military airstrips of the other. It is to last for five years and could be extended further.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s government has expanded military ties with Russia and signed deals to buy Russian fighter jets, helicopters and other weapons.
Two soldiers lightly hurt in rock-throwing incident near Palestinian village
Two IDF soldiers are lightly hurt after rocks were thrown at their car as they drove near the Palestinian village of Kusra south of the West Bank city of Nablus.
According to the army, one soldier was treated at the scene and another was taken to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva.
15 mortar shells fired from Gaza at IDF soldiers along border
At least 15 mortar rounds are fired from the Gaza Strip at an IDF soldiers guarding construction work along the Gaza border fence.
No one is hurt in the attack.
Hadashot news reports officials stopped the train line from Ashkelon to Sderot in response.
IDF confirms retaliatory fire, says it struck four Hamas positions
The IDF issues a statement on the exchange of fire in Gaza:
“A short time ago, our forces struck four terror targets in the Gaza Strip. The attack came in response to a ballistic attack carried out toward a military position adjacent to the northern Gaza Strip. We view the Hamas terror organization as responsible for the events in the Gaza Strip.”
The army tells The Times of Israel both tanks and aircraft were used in the response strikes.
— Judah Ari Gross
IDF says Gaza mortar barrage was retaliation for Islamic Jihad tunnel’s destruction
An army official says the mortar barrage from Gaza a short time ago appears to be in retaliation for the IDF’s destruction of an attack tunnel under construction by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group last month in which 14 operatives were killed.
— Judah Ari Gross
Abbas demands ‘international protection’ after Palestinian killed in clash
The office of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas calls for “immediate international protection” after a Palestinian was shot dead by an Israeli in the West Bank who, according to the Israeli army, was defending a group of Jewish children from a group of Palestinians attacking them.
The statement from Abbas’s office says the shooting was “conclusive proof for the whole world of the level of the ugliness of crimes carried out by settlers against the innocent Palestinian people.”
The IDF says a group of Israeli settlers, mostly children, came under attack outside the Palestinian village of Qusra in the northern West Bank on Thursday, prompting their security guard to fire into the crowd of Palestinians, killing 48-year-old Mahmoud Za’al Odeh.
— Dov Lieber
Minister: Mortar fire from Gaza shows Fatah-Hamas reconciliation a ‘fig leaf’
Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz says Israel will continue with its “zero tolerance” policy toward fire from the Gaza Strip shortly after some 15 mortar shells were fired from Gaza at IDF troops near the border.
The mortar fire “proves that [PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s] presence in Gaza [in the framework of Fatah-Hamas reconciliation] is no more than a fig leaf hiding a reality of armed and belligerent terror groups,” Katz is quoted as saying by Hadashot news.
“Israel will continue to see Hamas as responsible,” he says.
UK’s May: Trump was ‘wrong’ on anti-Muslim tweets, but relations will endure
British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday repeats her condemnation of US President Donald Trump’s retweets of anti-Muslim videos posted by a British far-right leader, but says US-UK relations would survive the row.
“I’m very clear that retweeting from Britain First was the wrong thing to do,” she says on a visit to Jordan in images broadcast on British television, before adding that ties with Washington were “enduring.”
Fired TV anchor Lauer expresses ‘shame’ and ‘regret’
WASHINGTON — Fired NBC TV anchor Matt Lauer expresses “shame” and “regret” Thursday for the first time since a female colleague came forward with a detailed claim of sexual misconduct by the US star.
“Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed,” he says.
“I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish dearly,” he says.
Lauer, for 20 years the top anchor of NBC’s “Today Show,” was summarily fired Wednesday less than 48 hours after the unnamed colleague met with network executives.
His sudden fall was just the latest to rock the US media and entertainment industries, hit by rolling waves of disclosures that have brought down some of the biggest names in the business.
Police arrest burglar suspected of two-year home robbery spree
Police arrest a 32-year-old Jerusalem man suspected of carrying out an extended spree of break-ins to residential homes over the past two years. The man is believed to have stolen hundreds of thousands of shekels in cash in the robberies.
Israel pleased Giro has fixed ‘West Jerusalem’ reference
Israel says it is pleased Giro d’Italia officials have rectified their route map to remove any reference to “West Jerusalem.”
Sports Minister Miri Regev and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin say on Thursday that following their appeal the term was removed and replaced with “Jerusalem.”
The Israeli officials were outraged by the original term when the route was revealed and threatened to drop out if it was not corrected. The Giro insists the original wording was “devoid of any political value.”
The 2018 bicycle race will open in Israel, and its route will remain on the Israeli side of the Green Line.
Citing deadly clash near Nablus, Islamic Jihad calls for ‘resistance’ attacks
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group says the incident near Nablus that saw a Palestinian farmer killed by an Israeli civilian who, according to the Israeli army, was defending a group of Jewish children from a group of Palestinians attacking them, shows that only violent “resistance can provide protection for the Palestinian people.”
The terror group calls for guerrilla attacks against Israel.
— Dov Lieber
Kushner questioned by Mueller’s team about Flynn
WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has been questioned by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of investigators about former national security adviser Michael Flynn, a person familiar with the investigation confirms to The Associated Press.
The person says the questioning of Kushner earlier this month took about 90 minutes or less and was aimed in part at establishing whether Kushner had any information on Flynn that might be exculpatory. The person says multiple White House witnesses have been asked about their knowledge of Flynn, who was forced to resign from his national security adviser job at the White House in February after officials concluded he had misled them about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.
The confirmation of Kushner’s interview comes as prosecutors working for Mueller postpone grand jury testimony related to Flynn’s private business dealings.
The reason for the postponement is not immediately clear, but it comes one week after attorneys for Flynn alerted Trump’s legal team that they could no longer share information about the case. That discussion between lawyers was widely seen as a possible indication that Flynn was moving to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation or attempting to negotiate a deal for himself.
IDF confirms renewed airstrikes against terror groups in Gaza
The IDF confirms it conducted another round of airstrikes in the Gaza Strip in response to a mortar attack by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group earlier in the day.
An army spokesperson says Israeli Air Force planes targeted two sites belonging to the organization.
Earlier today, Israeli tanks and aircraft struck two Islamic Jihad and two Hamas posts in the Gaza Strip, also in retaliation for the mortar attack.
— Judah Ari Gross
Brazil honors diplomat who presided over 1947 UN partition vote
RIO DE JANEIRO — Several Jewish and non-Jewish officials attend events to honor the memory of the Brazilian diplomat who played a crucial role in the creation of the State of Israel 70 years ago.
Oswaldo Aranha, a former president of the United Nations General Assembly who presided over the meeting held on November 29, 1947, supported and heavily lobbied for the majority in favor of the resolution that partitioned the British Mandate of Palestine into two states, Jewish and Arab. For his efforts, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1948.
“We are very proud that it was a Brazilian in that role. We honor the memorable chancellor Aranha for having allowed the Jewish people to make our millennial dream come true,” said Rio Jewish federation President Herry Rosenberg during a ceremony on Wednesday at Rio’s largest synagogue, the 1,000-family Reform temple ARI.
Polish Jewish leaders condemn attack on Warsaw Muslim center
WARSAW, Poland — Leaders of the Polish Jewish community express sympathy with the Muslim community after an attack on a mosque in Warsaw.
On Monday night, rocks and bricks were thrown at the Muslim Cultural Center in Warsaw, smashing the windows of the building. The buildings garden also was destroyed by the vandals. The perpetrators did not get inside the building. Security camera footage show at least two people perpetrating the attack. It is not the first time the mosque has been targeted.
Warsaw’s Muslim community is made up of about 22,000 people and there are two mosques in the city. About 500 people come to pray in the cultural center’s mosque, community leaders told local media.
In a letter to mufti Tomasz Miśkiewicz, Leslaw Piszewski, president of the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland, and Polish chief rabbi Michael Schudrich condemn the “increasing tendency of aggressive verbal and physical attitudes towards cultural and religious minorities in Poland in recent times.”
British PM promises economic aid to Jordan king
AMMAN, Jordan — Britain’s prime minister pledges to step up economic support for Jordan, a key pro-Western Arab ally, amid concerns that the kingdom’s mounting economic woes could undermine its stability.
Theresa May holds talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah II at the end of a three-day Mideast tour meant to bolster ties with the region before Britain leaves the European Union.
Over 400 US Marines to withdraw from anti-IS operation in Syria
BEIRUT — Over 400 US Marines involved in battling the Islamic State terror group in Syria are being withdrawn as part of a cut in forces after the capture of jihadist capital Raqqa, the US-led coalition says.
“The Marines supported Coalition partner forces with precise artillery strikes in the fight against ISIS,” the coalition says in a statement. “With the city liberated and ISIS on the run, the unit has been ordered home. Its replacements have been called off.”
The coalition’s director of operations Brigadier General Jonathan Braga calls the move “a real sign of progress” as the jihadists have seen the vast swaths of ground they seized across Syria and Iraq in 2014 reduced to just a few remaining pockets.
Trump poised to oust top diplomat Tillerson — report
WASHINGTON — The White House has a plan to force out Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and replace him with CIA chief Mike Pompeo within weeks, the New York Times reports today.
The newspaper quotes unnamed senior administration officials as saying Trump has soured on Tillerson and is ready for a change at the State Department, probably around the end of the year.
Under the plan, which the paper says was developed by White House chief of staff John Kelly, Pompeo would be replaced at the CIA by Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas and an important Trump ally on national security issues.
Gaza health ministry ups number of wounded from Israeli strikes to 3
The spokesperson for the Gazan Health Ministry, Dr. Ashraf al-Qidre, says the number of Gazans hurt in Israeli retaliatory airstrikes against Hamas and Islamic Jihad positions has risen to three. All are classified as lightly hurt.
— Dov Lieber
Islamic Jihad dismisses IDF strikes as attempt to ‘divert attention’
The spokesperson for Palestinian Islamic Jihad organization calls Israeli strikes on the terror group’s sites in Gaza an attempt to “divert attention” from an earlier fatal incident in the West Bank.
Daoud Shehab says the “resistance has the full right to retaliate,” according to a statement carried by the Palestine Today news agency, which is affiliated with the terror group.
Earlier today, a Palestinian farmer was shot dead by an Israeli in the West Bank who, according to the Israeli army, was defending a group of Jewish children from a group of Palestinians attacking them.
The IDF carried out airstrikes against Islamic Jihad and Hamas positions in retaliation for a mortar barrage against troops north of the Gaza Strip earlier today.
— Dov Lieber
Jordan says no return of Israeli envoy until guard from July incident investigated
A Jordanian official says Israel’s ambassador will not be allowed to return to Amman until legal action is taken against Ziv Moyal, the security guard who shot and killed two Jordanian citizens in July after he was stabbed by one of them, Channel 10 reports.
The Jordanian statement contradicts reports earlier today according to which Jordan would allow the Israeli ambassador to return to Amman if Israel switched out the current ambassador Einat Schlein for another diplomat. The Jordanian official denies the report.
Sen. Al Franken accused of sexual impropriety by two more women
Two more women come forward accusing US Senator Al Franken of sexual impropriety, including a second woman who says he groped her while the then-comedian was on a USO tour to entertain American troops.
Stephanie Kemplin, 41, of Maineville, Ohio, is an Army veteran who said Franken cupped her breast during a photo op in Kuwait in December 2003, CNN reports.
“When he put his arm around me, he groped my right breast. He kept his hand all the way over on my breast,” Kemplin said in an interview. “I’ve never had a man put their arm around me and then cup my breast. So he was holding my breast on the side.”
She said the incident made her feel “embarrassed.” Kemplin said she moved so his hand changed position before the photo.
Meanwhile, also Thursday, an unnamed former elected official in New England tells the Jezebel website that Franken attempted to give her a “wet, open-mouthed kiss” onstage at an event in 2006 as part of his Air America radio show, shortly before he ran for Senate. The woman was a guest in a live taping of his show. She told Jezebel the encounter left her “stunned and incredulous.”
The two accusations bring to six the number of woman in two weeks to allege inappropriate behavior by the Minnesota Democrat.
Education minister seeks new measures to combat violence against teachers
Education Minister Naftali Bennett announces a new plan to combat violence against teachers in schools, Channel 10 reports.
The plan includes advancing legislation that would allow courts to jail assailants for up to five years.
The ministry will also examine granting schools the right to permanently expel violent students.
The announcement comes just hours after the high school teachers’ union declares a one-day strike set for Sunday in all the country’s high schools in protest over what it describes as rampant and rising violence against teachers.
Planned strike at Ben Gurion Airport called off
A labor strike that threatened to cancel large numbers of flights leaving Ben Gurion Airport starting Friday has been called off.
The Airports Authority says the strike was canceled after Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Histadrut Labor Federation head Avi Nissenkorn intervened and were able to convince union chief Pinhas Idan to delay any labor action until efforts are undertaken to reach a compromise.
The union threatened to strike over attempts by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri to allow local municipalities on which Ben Gurion Airport is built to take property taxes from the Airports Authority.
The new taxes could lead to mass layoffs at the airport, the union fears.
Envoys of Western nuclear powers to snub Nobel peace ceremony
OSLO, Norway – Breaking with tradition, nearly all ambassadors of the world’s nuclear powers will not attend this year’s Nobel Peace Prize ceremony which honors efforts to ban atomic weapons, the Nobel Institute says.
During a meeting in the Norwegian capital last week, the United States, France and Britain all informed the Nobel Institute of their joint decision to be represented by their embassy’s second-in-charge.
“We are disappointed that the ambassadors from the United Kingdom, the United States and France won’t be there,” the head of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) Beatrice Fihn tells AFP.
“They claim to be committed to a world without nuclear weapons, and they should be celebrating civil society’s work on the issue,” she says, regretting their “defensive” position, yet noting that it “shows that this treaty and the campaign is already having an impact on them.”
The Peace Prize was awarded on October 6 to ICAN, a coalition of non-governmental organizations lobbying for a treaty banning atomic weapons, which was signed in July by 122 countries though none of the nuclear powers.
ICAN will formally receive its prize at a lavish ceremony in Oslo on December 10.
ICC prosecutor reaffirms she won’t open probe into 2010 Gaza flotilla
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The International Criminal Court prosecutor says she is standing by her previous decision not to open a full-scale investigation into the storming by Israeli forces of a Turkish-led flotilla heading to Gaza in 2010.
Fatou Bensouda in November 2014 declined a request by the Indian Ocean island nation of Comoros to investigate the May 31, 2010, intercept of a vessel in the flotilla that was sailing under a Comoros flag.
She says war crimes may have been committed on the Mavi Marmara ship, where eight Turks and one Turkish-American were killed and several other pro-Palestinian activists were wounded by Israeli commandos after they boarded the ship in a bid to enforce the Israeli blockade on Gaza. The IDF soldiers encountered violent resistance on the ship, and several of the commandos were badly wounded in the clash.
But the case wasn’t serious enough to merit an ICC probe, Bensouda says.
The ICC was set up as a court of last resort intended to prosecute senior leaders allegedly responsible for grave crimes including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity when national courts prove unable or unwilling to take on such cases. ICC judges told her to reconsider, but Bensouda says Thursday that after carefully reviewing more than 5,000 pages of documents and statements from more than 300 passengers on the Mavi Marmara she has reaffirmed her decision to close her preliminary investigation.
Graft probe testimony challenges Netanyahu claim of friendship with Milchan
Hadas Klein, assistant to Israeli billionaire Arnon Milchan, tells police that Milchan’s “gifts” of expensive cigars to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the years came at Netanyahu’s explicit request, Hadashot news reports.
“There were times Netanyahu asked personally [for the cigars],” Hadashot quotes Klein as telling police investigators.
Netanyahu would call her directly, she says. “He’d call them ‘leaves.’ Milchan didn’t smoke, but I notified the guy who works with him that he was paying for it.”
The report also quotes from Milchan’s testimony to police, saying, “These weren’t quite gifts. It was a demand. You don’t demand gifts. it disgusted me.”
The testimonies, as reported by Hadashot, seem to contradict Netanyahu’s main defense in the graft probe over the expensive gifts, according to which the luxury cigars and champagne bottles he received over the years were gifts from close friends, and not bribes.
Yemen rebel ballistic missile ‘hits target’ in Saudi Arabia – Houthi TV
Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels say they fired a ballistic missile at Saudi Arabia and hit a military target, in the second such attack this month, after threatening to retaliate over a crippling blockade.
“We confirm the success of our ballistic missile trial, which hit its military target inside Saudi Arabia,” the Houthi-run Al-Masira television channel says.
Earlier, rebel chief Abdulmalik al-Houthi warned against “prolonging the blockade” imposed on Yemen following a November 4 Houthi missile attack that was intercepted near Riyadh international airport.
“Should the blockade continue, we know what (targets) would cause great pain and how to reach them,” he says in a speech broadcast on Al-Masira television.
Yemen’s war has claimed more than 8,600 lives since the Saudi-led coalition joined the government’s war against the Houthi rebel alliance.