27 Iraqi protesters killed over 24 hours
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Israel hails Bolivia’s government for renewing ties after more than a decade

Foreign Minister Israel Katz says move will ‘contribute to Israel’s foreign relations,’ notes it wouldn’t have been possible under ‘hostile’ ousted leader Morales

Foreign Minister Israel Katz at a Likud election campaign stop in Jerusalem, September 16, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Foreign Minister Israel Katz at a Likud election campaign stop in Jerusalem, September 16, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

Germany to outlaw Hezbollah next week — report

The German government is going to outlaw the Iranian-backed Shiite terror organization Hezbollah, leading German news magazine Der Spiegel reports.

Citing government sources, the paper says that the foreign, justice and interior ministries in Berlin agreed on the move, which will be formalized next week at a conference, the paper says.

— Raphael Ahren

Knesset bill would end all of UNRWA’s operations in Israel

Likud MK Nir Barkat proposes a Knesset bill to end all operations in Israel of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees and their descendants, UNRWA.

Israel has long accused UNRWA of perpetuating the Israel-Palestinian conflict, defining refugees in a different way from other refugees around the world and making no attempt to resettle them in new countries, causing the population it serves — uniquely — to grow exponentially.

It has also been accused of inciting against Israel in its textbooks.

The move comes amid reports of increasing corruption and mismanagement within the agency and the recent resignation of its head, Pierre Krahenbuhl.

“UNWRA explicitly encourages incitement against Israel and attacking our citizens,” Barkat says in a statement. “UNWRA facilities are also known to be terror bases in Gaza that store missiles used against Israeli civilians.”

“UNRWA’s continued existence is increasingly irrelevant but also harms the very interests of the people it was founded to serve. UNRWA provides poor service and supports the idea that the Arab population should always be treated as refugees whereas we know that in Jerusalem there are no Palestinian refugees, only residents with the same rights as any other resident,” Barkat charges. “This significantly damages any hope for a better future for that community and our region, and we need to ensure that the agency closes its doors in Israel once and for all.”

PM aides appeal to Supreme Court over phone search in witness tampering case

Likud campaign manager and Netanyahu family spokesman Ofer Golan and party spokesman Jonatan Urich appeal to the Supreme Court against a ruling earlier this month by the Tel Aviv District Court allowing police to obtain the information contained on their phones.

Likud spokesman Jonatan Urich speaks at a Central Elections Committee meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, April 3, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The court green-lighted the police searches of the devices in the investigation into alleged witness tampering.

Golan and Urich allegedly hired a van to blast slogans through a loudspeaker outside the home of Shlomo Filber, a former Likud campaign manager and confidant of the prime minister who has testified against Netanyahu in a corruption case.

Filber is a key witness in Case 4000, in which Netanyahu is alleged to have advanced regulatory decisions benefiting Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in telecom giant Bezeq, in exchange for causing the Elovitch-owned Walla news site to be more positive in its coverage of Netanyahu.

“Police have gotten used to breaking into phones every day,” their lawyers say in a statement. “Police, which are in charge of protecting the law and the citizens, are trampling it while severely harming the rights of detainees. The court must put an end to this.”

Construction worker falls to his death in Jerusalem

A 60-year-old construction worker falls to his death at a work site in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Zeev.

Magen David Adom paramedics tried to resuscitate the man but were forced to pronounce him dead.

Liberman: I would have joined Netanyahu government had he agreed to compromise

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman says that had Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu been willing to compromise on religion and state issues, he would have joined a right-wing government with the ultra-Orthodox.

“He is always pandering to the ultra-Orthodox,” he says in a Russian-language interview with Radio Reka.

EU Parliament declares climate ’emergency’ in symbolic move

The European Union’s legislature has declared a “climate emergency” in a symbolic bid to push the issue as high as possible on the agenda of the EU’s executive team.

The parliament votes 429-225 with 19 abstentions to call the increasing environmental challenges linked to climate change an “emergency.”

Renew Europe MEP Pascal Canfin, who initiated the move, says it makes Europe “the first continent to declare a climate and environmental emergency.” Canfin says the parliament is meeting the expectations of European citizens.

The 28-nation EU has long been at the forefront of the global climate debate, a role that has been reinforced since the United States pulled out of the Paris climate agreement.

— AP

4 protesters killed on Baghdad bridge — Iraqi officials

Iraqi officials say four protesters have been shot dead by security forces and 22 have been wounded, amid ongoing clashes on a strategic Baghdad bridge.

Security and medical officials say security forces fired live rounds when protesters attempted to climb over barricades on Ahrar Bridge.

Protesters are occupying three key bridges — Jumhuriya, Sinak and Ahrar — in a standoff with security forces. The bridges lead toward the fortified Green Zone, the seat of Iraq’s government.

At least 350 people have died since October 1, when thousands of protesters took to the streets to decry corruption and poor services.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

— AP

Macron ‘totally stands by’ claim NATO is experiencing ‘brain death’

French President Emmanuel Macron defends his claim that NATO is experiencing “brain death,” saying its members are no longer cooperating strategically on a range of key issues facing the alliance.

“I totally stand by raising these ambiguities because I believe it was irresponsible of us to keep talking about financial and technical matters given the stakes we currently face,” Macron says alongside NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg after talks in Paris.

“A wakeup call was necessary,” he says.


Cyprus appoints independent investigator to assist probe of Israeli ‘spy van’

Cyprus’s attorney general appoints an independent criminal investigator to assist police in their investigation of a surveillance van that is owned by a company whose Israeli chief executive is a former intelligence officer.

Attorney-General Costas Clerides says in a statement that his decision to appoint lawyer Elias Stephanou was made due to the seriousness of the case and the legal angles that have sprung up throughout the probe.

Police are investigating whether Cyprus-registered WiSpear breached any privacy laws following local media reports that alleged the van — which authorities have confiscated — was used to spy on people on the eastern Mediterranean island nation.

WiSpear strenuously denies such reports, saying that it has neither sold nor rented “intelligence systems” to Cypriot authorities nor does it provide “intelligence services” to clients.

WiSpear was incorporated in 2013 and began operating four years later. It is run by Tal Dilian, an Israeli who an earlier Forbes video showed boasting about the $9 million (€8.18 million) van’s sophisticated surveillance equipment.

A WiSpear spokeswoman confirms to the Associated Press that Dilian has spent more than two decades in Israeli military intelligence.

— AP

Toll rises to 22 dead in day’s crackdown in Iraq’s Nasiriyah, medics say

The toll in a bloody crackdown on Iraq’s restive southern city of Nasiriyah has risen to 22 protesters dead and more than 180 wounded, medics tell AFP.

The violence erupted after the premier dispatched military commanders to “restore order” in the protest-hit south, hours after demonstrators torched Tehran’s consulate in the shrine city of Karbala.


Iraq PM axes new commander after 22 killed in crackdown

Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi sacks the military commander he dispatched earlier in the day to “restore order” to a protest-hit southern city after a crackdown there killed 22 protesters.

Abdel Mahdi, who is also the commander-in-chief of Iraq’s armed forces, ordered military chiefs to deploy across the south this morning, sending Jamil Shummary to the city of Nasiriyah.

But state television announces that by the afternoon, the premier had “withdrawn” Shummary from the post.


Thousands in funeral procession defy curfew in south Iraq

Thousands of Iraqis march in a funeral procession in the restive southern city of Nasiriyah, defying a curfew imposed earlier to mourn victims of the crackdown.

At least 22 people have been killed and more than 180 wounded in the city, where security forces have cleared a demonstration with live fire, medics say.


Israel denounces atrocities against Rohingya in Myanmar after diplomat’s tweet

The Foreign Ministry condemns the atrocities that occurred in Myanmar against the Rohingya after an Israeli diplomat there tweeted support for Burmese government officials facing a genocide trial in international court.

“Encouragement for a good verdict and good luck!,” Israel’s ambassador to Myanmar, Ronen Gilor, tweeted at the beginning of the week, specifically directed at Myanmar State Councillor Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Prize winner who also serves as the country’s foreign minister.

The tweet later was deleted, after a query from the Israeli daily Haaretz.

Now, the ministry says in a statement that the tweet was written “in error, and was corrected immediately.” The statement also says that “Israel strongly condemns the atrocities that took place in the Rakhine region against the Rohingya. About a week ago, Israel voted in favor of a resolution to denounce the atrocities.”

Myanmar has been accused of allowing mass rape and murder, as well as the burning down of homes in suppressing the Muslim Rohingya minority in the west of the country in August 2017. The country’s leaders will face genocide charges in the International Court of Justice in The Hague starting on December 10.


Rivlin in talks for official visit to Jordan — report

Talks are underway for President Reuven Rivlin to go on an official visit to Jordan amid rapidly deteriorating ties between the countries, the Haaretz website reports.

Rivlin met yesterday in London with Prince Ghazi bin Mohammed, chief adviser for Religious and Cultural Affairs and personal envoy to King Abdullah II of Jordan, along with other Jordanian officials, the President’s Residence said earlier today.

The statement said the meeting was held “in the spirit of open and productive dialog,” and they discussed the development of Christian holy sites along the Jordan River, which flows along the border between the two countries.

Last week, Jordan’s King Abdullah II said that relations between Jordan and Israel, which signed a landmark peace treaty 25 years ago, were at their worst point ever.

Palestinian terrorist convicted of murdering 3 Israelis in 2018 West Bank attacks

A Palestinian man has been convicted of three murder counts over a pair of December 2018 terror attacks that led to the deaths of two soldiers and an unborn baby.

The Ofer Military Court issued the ruling after Asem Barghouti confessed to the charges, Hebrew-language media reports. He is also convicted of 12 counts of attempted murder, obstruction of justice and membership in a banned association.

Asem (L) and Salih (R) Barghouti at a rally in Kobar after the former was released from Israeli prison in April 2018 (screenshot: Twitter)

Barghouti was arrested in January and accused of carrying out a shooting attack on a bus stop near the outpost of Givat Assaf on December 13 and of assisting his brother Salih in a shooting attack on a bus stop near the Ofra settlement on December 9.

Two soldiers, Sgt. Yosef Cohen and Staff Sgt. Yovel Mor Yosef, were killed in the Givat Assaf attack. Another soldier, Israeli-American Netanel Felber, was seriously injured and Shira Sabag, a civilian woman, was also hurt in the shooting.

Seven people were injured in the Ofra attack, including a woman seven months pregnant who was seriously wounded. Doctors delivered her baby boy in an emergency operation, but he died days later despite intensive efforts to save him.

Yair Netanyahu likens Israeli media to Nazi propaganda

Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister’s son, likens Israeli media to Nazi propaganda, in the latest of his seemingly endless series of incendiary tweets.

Yair Netanyahu, son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Flash90)

“Leni Riefenstahl had a lot to learn from Israeli media,” he writes, causing an immediate social media outrage.

Riefenstahl was a director favored by Nazi leaders Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels, who wrote many pro-Nazi films in the years before and during the Holocaust.

Bolivia renewing ties with Israel, says country’s foreign minister

Bolivia is renewing diplomatic ties with Israel, the foreign minister of the Latin American country’s transitional government, Karen Longaric, announces in a briefing with reporters.

Longaric took office on November 14, after the ouster of President Evo Morales, who was a bitter critic of Israeli policies.

Bolivia had cut diplomatic ties with Israel in January 2009 after Operation Cast Lead, a war against the Hamas terror group in Gaza.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry declines to comment on the Bolivian minister’s statement.

— Raphael Ahren

Russia loses bid to block new Syria chemical weapons probe

A bid by Russia to block funding for a new team that will identify culprits behind toxic attacks in Syria fails, with member states at the global chemical watchdog overwhelmingly approving a new budget.

Moscow and its allies were trying to block next year’s budget for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons — a move which would potentially have left the entire agency unable to operate — if it included money for the new Identification and Investigations Team (IIT).

But 106 member states vote in favor of the new budget, broadly seen as a confidence vote in the OPCW’s activities, while only 19 countries including Russia and China vote against.


Germany to tighten law on anti-Semitic crimes

Germany is planning to tighten legislation on anti-Semitic crimes, a minister says, following a deadly attack aimed at a synagogue in Halle in former east Germany last month.

Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht tells parliament that anti-Semitism will be made an aggravating factor for hate crimes in the criminal code.

The current law mentions discrimination against particular groups as an aggravating factor but does not refer to anti-Semitism specifically.

Bullet holes in the entrance door of a synagogue are pictured in Halle, Germany, October 10, 2019. (Jens Meyer/AP)

“I am ashamed that Jews in Germany no longer feel safe and that so many are even thinking of leaving the country,” Lambrecht tells parliament.

“We have to send a clear signal against anti-Semitism.”

Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, says the change is “an important step towards a consistent punishment of anti-Semitic crimes.”

The change is part of a package of government measures announced since the Halle attack, including obliging social media networks to report online death threats and incitement of racial hatred to police.

In the Halle attack, a gunman opened fire on a kebab shop after earlier trying and failing to storm a synagogue. He killed a 20-year-old customer in the shop and a female passer-by before being arrested.

Anti-Semitic offences rose by almost 10 percent in Germany last year, with violent attacks going up more than 60 %, according to preliminary police data released in February.


Government to approve NIS 40 million for security of West Bank settlements

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets leaders of the Yesha Council settlement umbrella group and says the government on Sunday will approve NIS 40 million ($11.5 million) for security and emergency response stations in the West Bank.

“We are continuing to strengthen the settlement movement and help it,” Netanyahu says during the meeting, according to a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office. “They won’t uproot us from here.”

The funding includes NIS 34.5 million for settlements’ security needs, NIS 5.5 million for the Magen David Adom ambulance service in the West Bank, and NIS 4 million for psychological counseling centers.

Israel hails Bolivia’s government for renewing ties

Foreign Minister Israel Katz praises Bolivia’s transitional government over its announcement it’s renewing ties with Israel, saying it will “contribute to Israel’s foreign relations and to its international status.”

He says the Foreign Ministry has been working to renew the diplomatic relations for a long time, including via Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and that country’s foreign minister.

He adds the move has been made possible thanks to the ouster of former Bolivian president Evo Morales, “who was hostile to Israel,” and the emergence of a government sympathetic to the Jewish state.

27 Iraqi protesters killed over 24 hours

Iraqi officials say 27 protesters have been shot dead in the last 24 hours, amid spiraling violence in Baghdad and southern Iraq.

Security and medical officials say 23 protesters were killed today by security forces who used live fire to break a sit-in on the main entrance to the southern city of Nassiriya. Following days of road closures by demonstrators, security forces fired live rounds to disperse crowds and open the street, officials say.

Officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Four protesters were shot by security forces in Baghdad when demonstrators tried to cross the strategic Ahrar bridge leading to the fortified Green Zone, the seat of Iraq’s government, amid escalating violence.

Protesters are occupying two other bridges – Jumhuriya and Sinak – which also lead to the Green Zone.

— AP

Report: Knesset Speaker Edelstein could run against Netanyahu in Likud primary

If primaries are held for the leadership of the ruling Likud party, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein is “seriously weighing” running against Benjamin Netanyahu and Gideon Sa’ar, Channel 12 quotes Likud sources as estimating.

Polls have indicated that support for Edelstein as party leader is lower than either the premier’s or that of his chief rival Sa’ar, who has already publicly announced the challenge.

Edelstein denies the report.

Court freezes lease of church property in Jerusalem to right-wing group

In a dramatic ruling, the Jerusalem District Court has blocked the long-term lease of church properties in Jerusalem’s Old City to a right-wing Jewish organization, overturning previous rulings and accepting a request for retrial, Hebrew-language media reports.

Israel’s top court had given final approval on June 11 to the 2004 lease of three buildings located in East Jerusalem’s Old City to businesses linked to the Ateret Cohanim organization, which seeks to increase the Jewish presence in Palestinian-majority areas of the capital.

The Imperial Hotel at the Jaffa Gate, the lease to which was sold to the right-wing Ateret Cohanim organization and is the subject of an appeal by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch. (Shmuel Bar-Am)

The Greek Orthodox Church in August filed a new lawsuit against the pro-settlement group in a bid to overturn the ruling, claiming it had “clear proof” of corruption in the long-disputed lease of several Old City properties, including two Palestinian-run hotels.

The deal made Ateret Cohanim the owner of the majority of properties located between the Old City’s Jaffa Gate and the entrance to its Arab market.

The purchase of 99-year leases through three front companies had triggered Palestinian anger and led to the 2005 dismissal of Patriarch Irineos I.

But the Israeli court has now canceled the previous rulings since the front companies, listed in the Virgin Islands, did not file a defense against the church’s new allegations.

The court also orders those firms to pay court fees totaling NIS 50,000 ($14,400).

Trump in Afghanistan for surprise Thanksgiving visit

US President Donald Trump is making a surprise visit to Afghanistan to spend time with US troops on Thanksgiving.

Trump arrived at Bagram Air Field shortly after 8:30 p.m. local time and spent more than two-and-a-half hours on the ground. Reporters were under strict instructions to keep the trip a secret to ensure his safety.

The visit comes more than two months after Trump abruptly broke off peace talks with the Taliban after a bombing in Kabul killed 12 people, including an American soldier.

And it comes at a pivotal moment in Trump’s presidency, with the impeachment inquiry moving quickly.

The president and first lady made a similar trip last year to Iraq on Christmas night — their first to an active conflict zone.

US Vice President Mike Pence also visited troops in Iraq this week.

US President Donald Trump speaks at a dinning facility during a surprise Thanksgiving Day visit to US troops at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, November 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

— AP

More than 30 dead Thursday in bloody Iraq crackdown

More than 30 protesters were killed today in one of the bloodiest days in a wave of protest rocking Iraq, the Iraqi Human Rights Commission says, blaming the deaths on “excessive force.”

The Commission, a government-funded body which has faced official pressure not to publish death tolls, says 25 were killed in the restive city of Nasiriyah.

Another two were killed in Baghdad and four in Najaf, where protesters yesterday burned down the Iranian consulate.


Trump says US has resumed talks with Afghan Taliban

US President Donald Trump says the US has resumed talks with Taliban insurgents as he makes an unannounced trip to Afghanistan to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with US troops.

“The Taliban wants to make a deal and we’re meeting with them and we’re saying it has to be a cease fire and they didn’t want to do a cease fire and now they do want to do a ceasefire,” he tells reporters.


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27 Iraqi protesters killed over 24 hours

Iraqi officials say 27 protesters have been shot dead in the last 24 hours, amid spiraling violence in Baghdad and southern Iraq.

Security and medical officials say 23 protesters were killed today by security forces who used live fire to break a sit-in on the main entrance to the southern city of Nassiriya. Following days of road closures by demonstrators, security forces fired live rounds to disperse crowds and open the street, officials say.

Officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Four protesters were shot by security forces in Baghdad when demonstrators tried to cross the strategic Ahrar bridge leading to the fortified Green Zone, the seat of Iraq’s government, amid escalating violence.

Protesters are occupying two other bridges – Jumhuriya and Sinak – which also lead to the Green Zone.

— AP