The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s developments as they unfolded.

Man shot in Jerusalem said he was from IS

An initial probe into the circumstances behind the fatal shooting of a Jewish man on a bus near the entrance to Jerusalem Wednesday night has found that the man yelled “I am Daesh” while scuffling with soldiers. Daesh is an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.

The man apparently demanded an ID from two soldiers who boarded a bus. They in turn demanded to see his ID, and an altercation ensued. When he reportedly tried to grab their guns, one shot and killed him.

According to the report, the bus driver also tried to help the soldiers with a Taser gun.

PA reportedly says it could suppress protests in days

Palestinian security officials say they could suppress violent protests in the West Bank and bring them to a halt in a matter of days, according to a report in Hebrew-language website Ynet.

The Palestinians cannot, however, control what is happening in East Jerusalem and in areas which are under Israeli security control, the report says, citing officials speaking off the record.

— Jonathan Beck

Soldiers gird for throngs at Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem

Troops have placed a concrete barrier in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, near a the Jewish holy site of Rachel’s Tomb, where thousands of faithful are expected for a pilgrimage this weekend.

The gathering could heighten tensions in the city, where Palestinian demonstrators have been clashing with Israeli troops in recent weeks.

An ultra-Orthodox man within the heavily fortified space of Rachel's Tomb (photo credit: Sege Attal/Flash 90)

An ultra-Orthodox man within the heavily fortified space of Rachel’s Tomb (Sege Attal/Flash 90)

Police say they will deploy hundreds of troops in a bid to maintain calm during the Saturday night-Sunday festival, which marks the anniversary of the biblical matriarch Rachel’s death.

Private cars will also be forbidden from entering the heavily fortified shrine during the pilgrimage festival.

— with AP

Jewish, Arab teens indicted for stone-throwing

An 18-year-old from the Arab East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sur Baher and a Jewish 17-year-old Jerusalemite have both been indicted for stone throwing, according to Ynet.

The Sur Baher teen is accused of throwing rocks at security forces, while the Jewish teen was charged with attacking a car driven by a Muslim with a head covering on Route 1 earlier this week.


UN, Quartet to discuss ending Mideast conflict

The ongoing violence in Israel and the West Bank has international bodies revving up their briefcases for emergency meetings on the matter.

The United Nations Security Council will hold a snap meeting on the Middle East conflict on Thursday morning New York time, as UN chief Ban KI-moon returns from a surprise two-day visit in a failed bid to calm tensions.

Meanwhile, EU foreign policy czar Federica Mogherini says the Quartet will also have a meeting on Israeli Palestinian fighting in Vienna on Friday.

That meeting will come on the heels of a powwow between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss the Syrian conflict together with their counterparts from Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

Lavrov had proposed that the Quartet meeting be held the same day, given the “extremely tense situation” in the Middle East.

The quartet is composed of Russia, the United States, the European Union and United Nations.

— with AFP

Netanyahu and Kerry agree on need to ‘end incitement’

A diplomatic source from the Netanyahu camp says that the prime minister met with Kerry for four hours, with the two agreeing on the need to “end incitement, ease tensions and return the calm.”

Netanyahu reiterated to Kerry his commitment to keeping the status quo, according to the official.

Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Secretary of State John Kerry meet at a hotel in Berlin, on October 22, 2015. (AFP/POOL/CARLO ALLEGRI)

Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and US Secretary of State John Kerry meet at a hotel in Berlin, on October 22, 2015. (AFP/POOL/CARLO ALLEGRI)

The two also discussed the security situation in the region, and Kerry will meet in Amman with Jordan’s King Abdullah on Saturday to discuss ways of restoring calm.

After Khamenei comments, Rouhani vows to keep to Iran deal

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has moved to dispel concerns voiced by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei over Iran’s landmark nuclear deal, insisting Tehran would carry out its obligations while monitoring the actions of world powers.

In a letter to the president on Wednesday, Supreme Leader Khamenei for the first time endorsed the accord Tehran struck in July with world powers, but warned that Iran must guard against weakness in carrying out its provisions.

Rouhani acknowledges support from Khamenei, who has the last word on Tehran’s policy matters, and assures the leader of the benefits of the deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran’s government will act to thoroughly implement the JCPOA, while observing his Honorable considerations and the ratifications of the Supreme National Security Council,” the president said.


Ban: Arab leaders have responsibility to calm violence

UN head Ban Ki-moon has met with Jordan’s King Abdullah to brief him on his recent meetings with Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas.

“The Secretary-General noted the responsibility of Arab leaders to encourage calm and to ensure that this crisis does not get out of control,” a UN spokesperson says in a statement.

Ban also urged to hold to the status quo at the Temple Mount and “reiterated the importance of reducing tensions at the holy places in Jerusalem.”

Kerry expresses ‘cautious optimism’ after Netanyahu meet

US Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed “cautious optimism” following talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Thursday on defusing spiraling Israeli-Palestinian tensions.

“I would characterize that conversation as one that gave me a cautious measure of optimism that there may be some things that could be in the next couple of days put on the table,” Kerry says in Berlin.

United States Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at a press conference in Berlin on October 22, 2015 (AFP/ODD ANDERSEN)

United States Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at a press conference in Berlin on October 22, 2015 (AFP/ODD ANDERSEN)

These “would have an impact I hope, on the perceptions of everybody engaged that there is a way to defuse the situation and begin a way forward,” he adds.


Jordan king warns against changing Temple Mount status quo

Jordanian King Abdullah II has again warned Israel against any move to change the status quo at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount compound, while reiterating calls for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The king, whose country has custodial rights over Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, makes his remarks in a statement after a meeting with UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

The king warns against “any attempt to change the status quo,” which Netanyahu has repeatedly promised to preserve, though he does not detail any consequences.

The king affirms “Jordan’s role in defending Jerusalem as part of its religious and historical duty as well as the Hashemite custodianship of the Islamic and Christian holy sites,” according to the state-run Petra news agency.

He adds that “achievement of a just and comprehensive peace, on the basis of a two-state (Israeli and Palestinian) solution, is the only way out of the crisis in the region.”

— AFP contributed

Netanyahu: End to incitement needed to halt terror

Netanyahu is meeting with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, and tells her that stopping terror requires stopping incitement.

“A lot of this terrorism, virtually all of it, is driven by incitement from Hamas, from the Islamic Movement in Israel, and I regret to say, from the Palestinian Authority,” he says. “And I think if we want to have any hope, we have to stop terrorism. If we want to stop terrorism, we have to stop the incitement.”

Netanyahu also expresses hope that he will find “a sense of fairness from Europe to the predicament that Israel faces.”

Firebomb thrown at Beitar Illit, no injuries

A Molotov cocktail has been thrown at the large West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit, south of Jerusalem.

No injuries are reported in the incident and security forces are searching the scene for attackers.

The assailants also rolled a burning tire toward the settlement, according to reports.

The settlement is adjacent to the Palestinian town of Husan, which often sees clashes between Palestinians and Israeli troops.

High Court nixes demolition of terrorists’ homes

The High Court has halted the planned demolition of a number of homes of Palestinians accused of carrying out terror attacks.

The court issued the temporary injunction after a petition was filed to stave off the demolitions, which were planned for today, according to Channel 2.

The homes in question were those of the killers of Eitam and Naama Henkin, Danny Gonen and Malachi Rosenfeld, killed in three separate West Bank drive-by shooting attacks in the last year.

The cabinet has recently pushed to expedite home demolitions, which officials say is useful as a deterrent against terror attacks.

However, rights groups have slammed the policy as a form of collective punishment.

Earlier this week, Israeli forces razed the home of a terrorist in Hebron who was convicted of running over and stabbing Dalia Lemkus in an attack in the West Bank in November.

UN official condemns violence, blames ‘stifling occupation’

An emergency UN Security Council meeting on Israeli-Palestinian violence has now begun in New York.

Jan Eliasson, deputy secretary general of the UN, speaks first, condemning “in the strongest terms all attacks against Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

He describes the recent knife and shooting attacks as “particularly appalling.”

But he goes on to say that the round of violence would not have occurred if not for the “stifling and humiliating occupation.”

Report: Abbas, Abdullah reject four-way with Israel

The Israeli Walla news site, citing a London-based Arabic-language newspaper, reports that Jordan and the Palestinians have rejected an offer by John Kerry to convene a summit with Netanyahu.

According to the report, Abbas has no intention of being in the same room as Netanyahu, and Jordan’s Abdullah fears riots in the Jordanian street should Netanyahu visit at this time.

PA: Israeli aggression continuing on Temple Mount

Speaking now at the UN Security Council is Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad Malki.

He starts by saying core issues will only be addressed once the “occupation of Palestinians lands ends.”

He says Palestinians are under continuous attack, targeted by “Israeli occupation forces,” and calls their resistance “legitimate.”

He says “aggression and provocations” are continuing in the Temple Mount.

“The Al-Aqsa Mosque is being attacked by Israeli extremists, day after day, by government officials, settler militias … [who] have unleashed a wave of violence and hatred against Palestinians.”

He says 50 Palestinians have been martyred, without noting the fact that any of them were killed as they attacked on Israelis.

Israel urges settlers toward terror, doesn’t want status quo, Maliki charges

Maliki says there is no justification for those who call for security for the “occupying power” while not calling for security for “occupied people.”

He accuses the Israeli government of protecting and urging settlers to carry out terror attacks against Palestinians.

He calls on Israel to abide by its obligations to abide by the status quo.

“It is clear that Israel wishes to keep up the status quo of the occupation, and not the status quo ante. This is unacceptable … this will only lead to further deterioration in the situation.”

He says preventing Muslims from worshiping, setting minimum ages, or setting times, allowing police to enter, or allowing “settlers” to enter the Temple Mount compound are all violations of the status quo.

‘This is no cycle of violence,’ Danon says in first UN speech

Israeli envoy Danny Danon, making his debut speech to the Security Council, speaks now, saying how all Israelis have been touched by war and terror.

“We will never compromise the security of the Jewish state,” he says.

He adds it’s not how he thought his first address would go, and then chides the Security Council.

“I am disappointed that all I hear are calls to end the cycle of violence. This is not a cycle of violence. These are unprovoked attacks against Israelis for no reason, just because they are Jews living in their homeland,” he says.

He says any country would act the same as Israel, and describes fear in Israel amid the random attacks.

Danon blames Palestinian incitement for violence

He accuses Palestinians of fostering “a culture of hate” including teaching children about killing Jews.

He quotes a video showing a girl praising the killing of Jews on PA television.

“An entire generation of Palestinian youth is being brainwashed,” he says.

He says the spree of terror has its basis in lies about the Temple Mount.

“This inflammatory allegation is false and President Abbas knows it is false, and yet his deliberate and malicious lie is told over and over again,” he says.

He then quotes a statement from 1928 in which Jews vowed they had no intention of praying on the Temple Mount, but says the rumors still sparked riots that killed hundreds.


Security Council needs status quo change, Danon quips

Danon says Israel will not allow international observers on the Temple Mount, but turns to France, which suggested the idea, and says while Israel wants to see peace, it will only come through direct talks.

He calls for a change in status quo at the Security Council, and says it needs to stop giving the Palestinians excuses for not engaging in peace negotiations.

Politicians lambaste court for staying home demolitions

The High Court decision to freeze the demolition of several accused terrorist’s homes has drawn harsh rebuke from Israeli politicians on the right, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu calls for the court to quickly reverse its decision though he strangely makes his case by referring to suicide attackers, despite the fact that all the suspected terrorists whose homes were slated to be raised are still alive.

“We have policies of exacting a price from suicide attackers,” Netanyahu says, explaining that if they are dead they cannot be punished. “Our problem is the disconnect between the action and the result. Therefore, we are explicitly asking to shorten the gap, and I also hope the High Court will decide as quickly as possible — and in general they do decide to demolish. It’s preferable to do this close to the act and within a few days.”

Others are less diplomatic, like Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, who accuses the court of “breaking its record of absurdity.”

They aren’t the only ones getting in the Guinness book.

The Jewish Home party accuses the New Israel Fund, which brought the petition to stay the home demolitions, of “breaking a record of hatred of Israel.”

Party leader Naftali Bennett urges the court to revoke the injunction quickly, saying that Israel is in “a state of emergency, and it’s high time the judges on the court realized that.”

Jordan threatens diplomatic action to end ‘Israeli violations on Al-Aqsa’

Jordan’s UN envoy, speaking at the Security Council, warns that Amman has a number of diplomatic avenues to deal with “Israeli violations against the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” but doesn’t detail them.

The envoy says Jordan has used diplomatic leverage to force Israel’s hand in the past, but they were always temporary measures.

He also says the status quo has been broken, and that the “historical status quo must be restored.”

Man shot to death in Jerusalem scuffle named

Authorities have released the name of the Jewish Israeli killed in a scuffle with soldiers in Jerusalem late Wednesday night as Simha Hodedatov, 28, from Jerusalem.

Hodedatov, originally from Dagestan, worked as a security guard in a yeshiva. He was on a bus when he demanded soldiers show him their ID. When they in turn demanded his ID, he fought with them and tried to grab a gun, leading them to shoot him, according to an initial investigation.

70 IS hostages freed in raid, Pentagon confirms

A US-backed rescue operation has freed 70 hostages from an Islamic State prison in Iraq and captured five militants, the Pentagon says, confirming that a US servicemember was killed.

“This operation was deliberately planned and launched after receiving information that the hostages faced imminent mass execution. It was authorized consistent with our counter-ISIL effort to train, advise, and assist Iraqi forces,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook says, using an alternate acronym for Islamic State.


Soldier ‘rescued’ from Armenia lands in Israel

An Israeli soldier rescued from Armenia in a secret mission after being stuck there for over a month amid a bureaucratic battle over military service has landed back in Israel, Army Radio reports.

Arik Martoyan, who moved from Armenia to Israel at age 5, became entangled in bureaucratic red tape in his country of origin during a family visit when local authorities said he was eligible for the country’s military draft and would be required to complete his mandatory service before being allowed to leave the country back to Israel.

Since being told he could not leave, Martoyan has been fighting to return to Israel. He has charged that Israeli officials were not doing enough to help him. He has also been in contact with his commanders in Israel’s air force to seek their assistance.

According to news site Maariv, Martoyan was “rescued” in a “dramatic operation last night that was planned over the last few days.”

Few details about the rescue are available.

Congressional panel condemns PA for incitement to violence

The House Foreign Affairs Committee in the US Congress unanimously passes a resolution condemning the Palestinian for incitement to violence.

“The escalation of violence against Israelis is praised, encouraged, and even fueled by Palestinian Authority officials. This resolution rightly condemns this incitement and the outbreak of violence, and expresses support for those who are working to encourage peace and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians,” committee chairman Ed Royce (R) says upon passage of the resolution.

The bipartisan resolution was written by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R).

On top of condemning the PA, the resolution also calls on the State Department to “monitor and publish information on all official incitement by the Palestinian Authority against Jews and the State of Israel.”

Three Palestinians injured in clash on Gaza border

Dozens of Palestinians are rioting next to the Gaza border fence, according to Israeli reports, throwing stones and burning tires.

Three Palestinian are moderately injured after being shot with live fire during the clashes, near the al-Bureij refugee camp in the central portion of the Strip, according to the Palestinian Ma’an news agency.

Troops also use tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowd.

There have been near daily clashes along the border fence, tied to ongoing violence in Israel and the West Bank.


Putin: West playing double game in Syria

President Vladimir Putin is accusing the West of playing a “double game” with terrorist groups in Syria, where a US-led coalition is conducting a bombing campaign.

“It’s always difficult to play a double game: declaring a fight against terrorists while simultaneously trying to use some of them to arrange the pieces on the Middle East chess board in one’s own interests,” Putin says at a meeting of political scientists known as the Valdai Club.

“It is impossible to prevail over terrorism if some of the terrorists are being used as a battering ram to overthrow undesirable regimes,” Putin said.

Putin pledges to continue to support Damascus militarily, while calling for a political solution involving all groups to try to end the war, the Kremlin says.



Kremlin says Syria ‘terrorists’ no longer able to fight

Russia’s defense ministry says it struck 72 “terrorist” targets in Syria over the past 24 hours, claiming to have destroyed the combat capability of the main terrorist groups operating in the country.

“As a result of Russian air strikes, the main forces of terrorist groups, made up of the best trained terrorists, have lost combat capability. Their command and resupply system has been disrupted,” senior military official Andrei Kartopolov tells Russian news agencies.

Since the start of the campaign, Russian planes have carried out 934 sorties that have destroyed 819 “terrorist targets”, including command centers, ammunition depots and training camps, Kartopolov says.


Gal-on accuses right-wing MKs of ‘lynching’ High Court

Israeli politicians love nothing more than being topical in their quips, even if that means name checking a tragedy (See Ehud Barak’s famous diplomatic tsunami after the Fukushima disaster) and so Meretz chief Zahava Gal-On decides to use the recent fatal shooting and beating of an Eritrean man to take down her righty colleagues.

Meretz MK Zahava Gal-On. December 25, 2013. (Photo credit: Flash 90)

Meretz MK Zahava Gal-On. December 25, 2013. (Photo credit: Flash 90)

Commenting on the outcry among right-wing lawmakers after the High Court ordered a freeze on home demolitions of suspected Palestinian killers, Gal-on accuses them of a “public lynching of the High Court.”

On Sunday, African Haftom Zarhum was shot and then beaten by a mob after being mistaken for a terrorist. The incident was termed a “lynching” by Israeli politicians, pundits and others.

New Zealand to present UN resolution to jumpstart talks

New Zealand says it will present a draft UN resolution to try to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully tells the Security Council he hopes the measure will help “stimulate a level of debate” on the way forward as Israel and the Palestinians sink deeper into violence.

“The events of recent weeks cry out for council action,” says McCully.

“While we remain ready to support any other reasonable proposals for progress, we will, over the coming days, share the text of a draft resolution,” he says.

New Zealand’s draft resolution will call for an end to the violence, reaffirm the need for a two-state solution, support direct talks and call for confidence-building measures to achieve direct negotiations.

Diplomats say they do not expect the text to be a game-changer.


East Jerusalemites urged to skip work in western part of city

A flyer being circulated on social media is calling on East Jerusalem residents to stop going to their jobs in West Jerusalem, Haaretz reports.

The notice isn’t signed by a political group, but rather “Jerusalem families,” and calls on the workers to play hooky until further notice to protest the partial closure Israel has put on some Arab neighborhoods in the capital.

The paper reports a similar strike was called in the neighborhood of Issawiya earlier this week, but several workers sneaked out before dawn so they could go to work without being seen as picket line jumpers.

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