7 suspects arrested over Sri Lanka bombings as death toll tops 190
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Sri Lanka police find safe house used by bombers, seize car

13 suspects arrested after wave of bombings kills 207 people, injures hundreds

  • Sri Lankan security personnel walk next to dead bodies on the floor amid blast debris at St. Anthony's Shrine, following an explosion in the church in Kochchikade in Colombo, on April 21, 2019. (ISHARA S. KODIKARA/ AFP)
    Sri Lankan security personnel walk next to dead bodies on the floor amid blast debris at St. Anthony's Shrine, following an explosion in the church in Kochchikade in Colombo, on April 21, 2019. (ISHARA S. KODIKARA/ AFP)
  • Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukrainian actor and candidate reacts after debates between in the weekend presidential run-off at the Olympic stadium in Kiev, Ukraine, April 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
    Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukrainian actor and candidate reacts after debates between in the weekend presidential run-off at the Olympic stadium in Kiev, Ukraine, April 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
  • An injured Sri Lankan Special Task Force (STF) member is carried by colleagues after a blast in a house, which was detonated as security forces searched the property, in the Orugodawatta area of the capital Colombo on April 21, 2019.(ISHARA S. KODIKARA / AFP)
    An injured Sri Lankan Special Task Force (STF) member is carried by colleagues after a blast in a house, which was detonated as security forces searched the property, in the Orugodawatta area of the capital Colombo on April 21, 2019.(ISHARA S. KODIKARA / AFP)
  • Sri Lankan security personnel and investigators look through debris outside Zion Church following an explosion in Batticaloa in eastern Sri Lanka on April 21, 2019. (LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI / AFP)
    Sri Lankan security personnel and investigators look through debris outside Zion Church following an explosion in Batticaloa in eastern Sri Lanka on April 21, 2019. (LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI / AFP)
  • Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (C) is greeted upon his arrival at the Arab League headquarters in the Egyptian capital Cairo, to discuss the latest developments in the Palestinian territories on April 21, 2019. (MOHAMED EL-SHAHED / AFP)
    Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (C) is greeted upon his arrival at the Arab League headquarters in the Egyptian capital Cairo, to discuss the latest developments in the Palestinian territories on April 21, 2019. (MOHAMED EL-SHAHED / AFP)

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

No agreement on ultra-Orthodox draft as Yisrael Beytenu, Likud officials meet

Representatives from the Likud and Yisrael Beytenu parties meet as the first round of coalition talks begin.

The meeting is amiable, but does not resolve the outstanding disagreements on the ultra-Orthodox enlistment bill.

In an official statement, Yisrael Beytenu says the meeting is held “in good spirits,” that the party had presented its demands in various areas, and that the teams agreed to hold another meeting soon.

Likud says it has received a long list of demands, many of which had to do with budgets such as pensions for immigrants, as well as fortifications of structures in the north.

“The issues that remains problematic at this stage is the enlistment law — that has no solution at this stage,” Likud says.

Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman is demanding a Defense Ministry-drafted version of the bill be advanced, while the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties say the proposal must be amended.

The coalition talks are expected to continue in earnest only next week, as the religious parties have declined to hold negotiations during the Passover holiday.

Deputy AG: Ex-official who quit over misconduct can serve as Likud negotiator

Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber says there are no grounds for disqualifying a former official who in the past resigned from the Prime Minister’s Office over allegations of sexual misconduct from participating in the Likud coalition talks.

She is responding to Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg, who protested the involvement of Natan Eshel.

Zilber, in a legal opinion, says Eshel’s plea bargain did not prevent him from participating in public roles in the future.

Eshel served in the PMO in 2009-2012 and resigned as part of a plea bargain over the allegations, specifically that he had used a surreptitiously placed camera to film under the skirt of a female colleague. He was also accused of accessing her private emails.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his aide, purported underpants enthusiast Natan Eshel (photo credit: Amit Shabi/pool/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his then-aide Natan Eshel on August 28, 2011. (Amit Shabi/pool/Flash90)

Police say eighth Sri Lanka blast was suicide bomb, killed three

The eighth blast in a string of explosions that hit Sri Lanka on Sunday was carried out by a suicide bomber and killed three police officers, a police source says.

The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, says the suicide bomber detonated his explosives when police entered a house in a northern suburb of the capital Colombo to carry out a search.

The upper floor of the house collapsed in the blast, killing the police officers. The blast is the latest in a string targeting mostly hotels and churches that have killed around 160 people in a single day.

AFP

Iran, Lebanon condemn Sri Lanka bombings

Iran’s foreign minister says he is “terribly saddened” by the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka that have killed at least 138 people.

Mohammad Javad Zarif tweets that “terrorism is a global menace with no religion: it must be condemned & confronted globally.”

Lebanon’s prime minister calls the attacks “blind terrorism” and offers solidarity to Sri Lanka’s people.

Saad Hariri in a tweet asks for mercy for the “innocent victims” and speedy recovery for the injured.

The series of blasts is the worst violence in Sri Lanka since the South Asian country’s bloody civil war ended a decade ago.

AP

Pope urges return of refugees to Syria

Pope Francis urges politicians Sunday to make a new effort to resolve the Syrian conflict and so help ensure the return home of millions of refugees and displaced people.

It is “time for a renewed commitment for a political solution (to) … favour the secure re-entry of the homeless, along with all those who have taken refuge in neighbouring countries, especially Lebanon and Jordan,” Francis says in his traditional Easter Sunday address at the Vatican.

AFP

Yair Lapid condemns Poles’ burning of Jewish Judas effigy

Blue and White’s Yair Lapid condemns the residents of a small town in Poland on Friday who reportedly marked Good Friday by making a large doll of Judas Iscariot featuring classic anti-Semitic tropes, beating it up, hanging it from a tree and then burning it.

“The hatred of Jews in Poland continues to poison the atmosphere,” he tweets. “The Poles need to fight anti-Semitism, not pass laws denying their role in the Holocaust. The Netanyahu government needs to stop stammering and unequivocally condemn this.”

Trump offers Sri Lanka condolences on ‘horrible terrorist attacks’

US President Donald Trump on Sunday offers “heartfelt condolences” to the people of Sri Lanka after a series of deadly explosions at churches and hotels in the island nation killed more than 160 people.

“Heartfelt condolences from the people of the United States to the people of Sri Lanka on the horrible terrorist attacks on churches and hotels,” he tweets. “We stand ready to help!”

The US leader erroneously writes that “138 million people” were killed in the attacks. He later appears to have deleted the tweet.

AFP, with Times of Israel staff

Netanyahu condemns ‘murderous attacks’ in Sri Lanka, offers help

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offers aid to Sri Lanka following the series of deadly bombings.

Netanyahu “expresses, on behalf of all Israelis, deep shock over the murderous attacks against innocent civilians in Sri Lanka.”

“Israel is ready to aid the authorities in Sri Lanka at this difficult hour,” he continues. “The entire world must unite in the fight against the scourge of terrorism.”

Measles reported on two flights from Ukraine to Israel

The Health Ministry announces that passengers infected with measles recently traveled to Israel from Ukraine.

The first case was on UIA flight 794 from Kharkov to Tel Aviv that left at 7:15 p.m. on April 11. The second was on UIA flight 777 from Kiev to Tel Aviv that departed on April 13.

Passengers or crew members who show signs of the disease are urged to seek medical care immediately.

7 suspects arrested over Sri Lanka bombings as death toll tops 190

The death toll in the Sri Lanka bombings climbs to 190, according to the country’s deputy transport minister.

Sri Lanka’s defense minister says seven suspects have been arrested following the series of blasts.

with AP

Israelis in Sri Lanka urged to avoid tourist sites after bombings

Israeli tourists in Sri Lanka are urged to avoid churches and tourist sites, Israel’s Embassy in India tweets.

It also encourages them to “listen to the local security forces, stay away from the scenes of the attacks, and to be attuned to statements in the local media” and to notify their families of their wellbeing.

Sri Lanka police raise death toll to 207

The death toll in the Sri Lanka attacks rises to 207, according to police.

with AFP

Sri Lanka imposes 12-hour curfew after attacks

Sri Lanka’s government imposes a nationwide curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. following a series of blasts in and around the capital that killed at least 190 people.

Shops are closed and streets are deserted in Colombo, the capital, ahead of the curfew Sunday.

At least three churches, three luxury hotels and a guesthouse were among the targets of the Easter Sunday attacks.

SriLankan Airlines is telling passengers booked on flights out of the country that they will be able to fly despite the curfew.

The carrier says in a statement that travelers on all airlines operating out of Bandaranaike International Airport can access the airport by showing their tickets and passports at checkpoints.

The airline says security has been tightened at the airport, and it advises passengers to arrive four hours before their scheduled flights.

AP

No Israeli casualties in Sri Lanka attacks, diplomats confirm

The Foreign Ministry confirms that no Israelis were hurt in the Sri Lanka attacks.

Christians mark Easter at Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre

Hundreds of pilgrims file into Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the traditional site of Jesus’s resurrection, for Easter celebrations on Sunday.

Catholics and Protestants mark Easter on Sunday, while eastern Orthodox Christians celebrated Palm Sunday, with Easter Sunday coming for them on April 28.

The church, in the Old City of Jerusalem, is built at the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.

A recently renovated ornate shrine within the church surrounds the cave where Jesus is believed to have been interred.

The western and eastern faiths mingle there in a packed crowd.

“Too much of an unruly crowd is not so spiritual,” grumbles Donatella Buhler from Switzerland, there with her children.

Polish pilgrim Matthew Novak is more impressed.

“It’s really different,” he says. “You can feel the spirit of religion.”

Roman Catholic Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa celebrates mass near the shrine and alluded to the pain and violence all around, and to the hope born of faith.

“Each of us brings his or her experience of Easter, of death and resurrection,” he says in his sermon.

“In the tragic situation we are living, it is this hope that comes to the rescue of a faith that is at odds every day with such great violence.”

He does not directly mention Sunday’s series of bomb attacks in Sri Lanka which included strikes on three churches, killing more than 200 people.

AFP

Sri Lanka bomber waited at hotel buffet then unleashed devastation

The suicide bomber waited patiently in a queue for the Easter Sunday breakfast buffet at Sri Lanka’s Cinnamon Grand hotel before setting off explosives strapped to his back.

Carrying a plate, the man, who had registered at the hotel the night before as Mohamed Azzam Mohamed, was just about to be served when he set off his devastating strike in the packed restaurant, a manager at the Sri Lankan hotel says.

“There was utter chaos,” says the manager, who speaks to AFP on condition of anonymity as he is not allowed to speak for the company.

The Taprobane restaurant at the hotel was having one of its busiest days of the year for the Easter holiday weekend.

“It was 8:30 am and it was busy. It was families,” the manager tells AFP.

“He came up to the top of the queue and set off the blast,” he adds.

“One of our managers who was welcoming guests was among those killed instantly.”

The bomber also died. Parts of his body were found intact by police and taken away.

AFP

80,000 Israelis visit national parks despite stormy weather

Some 80,000 Israelis flock to national parks around the country, despite colder than average temperatures and sporadic rain, according to the Nature and Parks Authority.

Israeli dies in Sri Lanka surfing accident

A 59-year-old Israeli is pronounced dead at a Sri Lankan hospital after suffering a head injury last week while surfing, according to reports.

He is identified as Oded Lechner of the Beit Keshet kibbutz.

Lechner was visiting his son, who was backpacking in the area.

Meeting Arab foreign ministers, Abbas appeals for funding to aid budget woes

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas urges Arab countries to provide a financial safety net to the Palestinians to help them overcome a major budgetary shortfall.

He makes the appeal at a meeting of Arab foreign ministers and officials at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo.

In February, Israel started to implement a new law that allows authorities to withhold taxes from Ramallah equivalent to the amount that they determine the Palestinians pay to security prisoners, including terrorists, and the families of dead terrorists.

The Palestinians have protested the law, refusing to receive any part of the taxes Israel gathers for them on a monthly basis, as long as the Jewish state does not transfer the full amount.

The taxes Israel collects and transfers to the PA make up hundreds of millions of shekels, more than half of its monthly budget.

Adam Rasgon

Abbas: Netanyahu doesn’t believe in peace

PA President Mahmoud Abbas tells Arab leaders that “Netanyahu doesn’t believe in peace” with the Palestinians, ahead of the unveiling in the coming months of the Trump peace plan.

Abbas says US President Donald Trump expressed willingness in 2017 to declare support for a two-state solution, but weeks later announced he would relocate the embassy to Jerusalem and cut aid to the Palestinian refugee agency.

After repeated delays, the US administration is expected to release the plan in June.

Abbas says US-Palestinian security coordination alive and well

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says security cooperation between the Palestinians and the US is ongoing.

He makes the statement at a meeting of Arab foreign ministers and officials at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo.

Adam Rasgon

Netanyahu, Kahlon to meet on Thursday

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with Kulanu party leader Moshe Kahlon on Thursday for coalition-building talks.

The two haven’t met since the April 9 election, though Netanyahu has sat down with all the other party leaders he hopes to fold into his coalition.

11 foreigners among Sri Lanka dead; 9 reported missing

Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry says the nationalities of 11 foreigners killed in the Easter Sunday blasts have been verified.

They include three Indians, one Portuguese national, two Turkish nationals, three British nationals and two holding US and British nationalities.

The statement also says nine foreigners are reported missing.

A Dutch national and a Chinese national also have been reported among the victims.

The blasts that targeted hotels and churches killed more than 200 people.

AP

Muslim groups in Sri Lanka condemn attacks

Two Muslim groups in Sri Lanka are condemning the attacks on churches and hotels in the country on Easter Sunday that killed more than 200 people.

The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka says it mourns the loss of innocent people in the blasts by extremists who seek to divide religious and ethnic groups.

The All Ceylon Jammiyyathul Ulama, a body of Muslim clerics, says targeting Christian places of worship cannot be accepted.

Muslims make up about 10% of Sri Lanka’s population of 23 million.

No one has claimed responsibility for what Sri Lankan officials have described as a terrorist attack by religious extremists.

AP

US House committee chair Nadler: Evidence against Trump impeachable if proven

A House committee chairman says the evidence of obstruction by US President Donald Trump detailed in the special counsel’s report is impeachable if proven.

Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York chairs the House committee that would hold impeachment proceedings. He says it’s up to Congress to investigate the 10 allegations of Trump’s attempts to obstruct the Russia investigation that special counsel Robert Mueller laid out but left open whether Trump broke the law.

Asked whether the offenses are impeachable, Nadler tells NBC, “If proven, some of this would be impeachable, yes.” He says Democrats’ focus is to “go where the evidence leads us.”

Democratic leaders are under pressure from the party’s rising stars and some presidential contenders to start impeachment proceedings. House Democrats will confer Monday on next steps.

AP

Iran’s supreme leader said to tap new head of IRGC

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has appointed a new head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps: Hossein Salami.

He replaces Mohammad Ali Jafari, who was reportedly demoted.

Earlier this month, the US designated the IRGC a terrorist organization.

Eight arrested in connection with Sri Lanka blasts, PM says

Eight people have been arrested in connection with a string of deadly blasts that killed more than 200 people in Sri Lanka today, the country’s prime minister says.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe says “so far the names that have come up are local,” but that investigators would look into whether the attackers had any “overseas links.”

AFP

Several Americans killed in Sri Lanka attacks, Pompeo says

Several Americans were among the more than 200 people killed Sunday in a series of bombings of hotels and churches in Sri Lanka, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says.

“While many details of the attacks are still emerging, we can confirm that several US citizens were among those killed,” he says in a statement. “The US Embassy is working tirelessly to provide all possible assistance to the American citizens affected by the attacks and their families.”

AFP

National security adviser offers Israeli aid in call with Sri Lankan official

Meir Ben Shabbat, the head of the National Security Council, speaks to Sri Lanka’s president’s secretary, Udaya Seneviratne, to offer condolences and Israeli humanitarian aid, following the deadly attacks that killed 207 people, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Senewiratne thanks Ben Shabbat for the message, according to a statement, which does not specify whether Colombo will be accepting Israel’s offer.

Exit polls: Jewish comedian wins Ukraine presidential vote with 73%

A Jewish comedian has won the Ukraine presidential vote with 73 percent, according to exit polls.

Forty-one-year-old Volodymyr Zelensky’s bid to lead the country was initially dismissed as a joke. But opinion polls suggest incumbent President Petro Poroshenko is heading for defeat amid widespread anger over poverty and corruption.

With AFP

TV airs recordings of alleged voter fraud at Arab polls

Channel 12 broadcasts recordings documenting alleged voter fraud, which it says were obtained by Likud activists at polls in predominantly Arab areas.

In a clip, a Likud activist is heard being told — apparently by a local observer — to turn a blind eye to vote-fixing at the ballot station. The observer notes the low turnout among the Arab community and seeks to “change the balance” of the tally, while urging the Likud activist not to report any discrepancies, according to the recording.

Earlier on Sunday, the head of the Central Elections Committee asked Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and acting Israel Police chief Motti Cohen to open a criminal investigation into alleged election fraud, citing several incidents of suspected irregularities.

The committee chairman, Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer, said in a letter that his request was the result of evidence provided to him by Likud MK David Bitan, a staunch loyalist of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

TV: Netanyahu chided Macron over request to free PA tax funds

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reprimanded French President Emmanuel Macron over his request that Israel release the tax funds it collects for the Palestinian Authority, according to Channel 12.

“Your request is immoral,” Netanyahu wrote to Macron, according to the report.

In February, Israel started to implement a new law that allows authorities to withhold taxes from Ramallah every month, equivalent to the amount that they determine the Palestinians pay to security prisoners, including terrorists, and the families of dead terrorists.

The Palestinians have protested the law, refusing to receive any of the taxes Israel gathers for them on a monthly basis, as long as the Jewish state does not transfer them their full amount.

The taxes Israel collects and transfers to the PA make up hundreds of millions of shekels, more than half of its monthly budget.

Netanyahu told Macron that Israel will continue to implement its law, the report says.

Ukraine’s outgoing leader Poroshenko concedes defeat, congratulates Zelensky

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko concedes the presidential race and congratulates comedian Volodymyr Zelensky on his win.

Zelensky, who won a landslide victory, tells his supporters he will not let them down, and encourages other-post Soviet countries to bring new leaders to power.

“I will never let you down,” the 41-year-old TV star says, at his campaign headquarters after the results of exit polls are published.

“While I am not formally president yet, as a citizen of Ukraine I can tell all post-Soviet countries: ‘Look at us! Everything is possible!'”

AFP, with Times of Israel staff

Sri Lanka police find safe house used by bombers, seize car

A police spokesman says 13 suspects have been arrested in connection with the attacks in Sri Lanka that killed more than 200 people on Easter Sunday.

In a statement, Ruwan Gunasekara also says police have a vehicle they suspect was used to transport the suspects into Colombo.

Police have also found a safe house used by the attackers.

AP

7-year-old boy critically hurt in Jerusalem hit-and-run

A seven-year-old boy is in critical condition after being hit by a car in Jerusalem.

The driver flees the scene of the collision, on Golda Meir Boulevard, near the Ramot neighborhood.

The boy is taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center for treatment.

Russia says vote result shows Ukrainians want ‘change’

Russia’s foreign ministry on Sunday says Ukraine has voted for change, after exit polls show comedian and political novice Volodymyr Zelensky winning the country’s presidency in a landslide.

“Exit polls show the citizens of Ukraine voted for change. The new leadership now must understand and realize the hopes of its electors. This of course applies to domestic as well as foreign affairs,” Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin tells news agency RIA Novosti.

AFP

US sanctions on IRGC include loopholes for foreigners — report

The United States will grant various exemptions to foreign states, businesses, and humanitarian organizations engaging with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, thus averting automatic US sanctions on these entities, Reuters reports, citing three current and three former US officials.

The US will still be permitted to sanction any state or organization that provides “material support” to the paramilitary group, the report says.

Earlier this month, Washington designated IRGC a terrorist organization.

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Live updates (closed)

7 suspects arrested over Sri Lanka bombings as death toll tops 190

The death toll in the Sri Lanka bombings climbs to 190, according to the country’s deputy transport minister.

Sri Lanka’s defense minister says seven suspects have been arrested following the series of blasts.

with AP