The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they unfolded.
Russia calls reports of alleged Syria gas attack a ‘provocation’
Russia’s foreign minister has called reports of a suspected poison gas attack in Syria a “provocation.”
Syrian opposition activists and local rescuers said on Sunday that the suspected attack from the previous day against the last remaining foothold of the rebels in the eastern suburbs of Damascus killed at least 40 people.
Russia earlier managed to negotiate with the rebels an evacuation from that area.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday rejects the reports of the attack, calling it a “provocation.” He says the Russian military visited the site of the suspected attack and found no traces of the chemicals.
EU blames Syrian government for chemical attack
The European Union is squarely laying the blame for the suspected poison gas attack on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.
EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic says that over the weekend and early Monday as the reports came in of another atrocity in Syria, the EU “learned from several sources” to shape its conviction “that it is the Syrian regime which is responsible” when it comes to the suspected chemical attack.
The EU appealed in a statement on Sunday that Assad allies Russia and Iran “use their influence to prevent any further attack and ensure the cessation of hostilities and de-escalation of violence” as agreed under a UN resolution.
Netanyahu meets with families of fallen soldiers ahead of Memorial Day
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets the relatives of IDF soldiers killed in battle and terror attacks ahead of Memorial Day next week.
“You know the enormity of the loss, therefore you can also appreciate life. I’ll tell you something that sounds crazy, but each of one of you can overcome a lot of problems in life, because you’re overcoming this,” he tells children whose parents were killed fighting in the Israel Defense Forces.
Netanyahu also addresses the death of his brother Yoni, who was killed in the 1976 Entebbe hostage rescue, and thanks the Yad Lebanim and IDF Widows and Orphans organizations, which work with bereaved families.
בכל שנה לפני יום הזיכרון אני מבקש להיפגש עם יתומי צה״ל ואחים שכולים. מאי גולדמכר, אחותו של סמל נדב גולדמכר ז"ל שנפל בצוק איתן, קראה לנו מכתב מרגש שכתבה לאחיה. אחרים סיפרו על אבא שאיבדו, דוד שלא חזר. האחים שלנו, הקרובים שאיבדנו, ממשיכים לחיות בתוכנו. תמיד.(וידאו: עומר מירון, לע"מ. סאונד: בן פרץ, לע"מ)
Posted by Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו on Monday, 9 April 2018
Hungary ruling party looks to advance ‘Stop Soros’ laws after election win
BUDAPEST, Hungary — Capitalizing on its sweeping election victory, Hungary’s governing Fidesz party says it could push through the so-called “Stop Soros” laws targeting civic groups and people aiding refugees as soon as May.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban, elected yesterday to his third consecutive term, based his campaign on demonizing migrants, saying that wealthy philanthropist George Soros, the European Union and the United Nations are conspiring to turn Hungary into an “immigrant country.”
Fidesz parliamentary spokesman Janos Halasz says Monday that the “Stop Soros” package could be among the first legislative measures approved by the new Fidesz super-majority in parliament.
Orban has repeatedly described civic groups supported by Soros, and in general any non-governmental group he disagrees with, as foreign agents working against Hungarian interests.
Among the stipulations of the new law, refugee advocates would need government permission for their activities and would pay a tax on their donations from abroad.
UK urges ‘strong’ response to alleged Syria chemical attack
LONDON — British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Monday calls for a “strong and robust international response” to an alleged poison gas attack on a rebel-held town near Damascus.
Speaking with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian on the phone, Johnson “underlined the urgent need to investigate what had happened in Douma and to ensure a strong and robust international response,” the UK’s Foreign Office says in a statement.
Syria and its ally Russia have dismissed allegations that the attack was carried out by Syrian forces as “fabrications” and have warned against using them to justify military action.
The Foreign Office statement doesn’t apportion blame for the alleged chemical attack.
But it says that Le Drian and Johnson “noted that international investigators mandated by the UN Security Council had found the Assad regime responsible for using poison gas in at least four separate attacks since 2014.”
The two “agreed that those responsible for this attack must be held to account” and a UN Security Council meeting on Monday would be “an important next step in determining the international response and that a full range of options should be on the table,” it adds.
Family of soldier slapper releases interrogation video; lawyer files complaint
RAMALLAH, West Bank — The family of convicted Palestinian teen soldier-slapper Ahed Tamimi releases excerpts from a video in which an Israeli interrogator threatens the then-16-year-old with the arrest of her relatives if she refuses to cooperate. The interrogator also comments on her body, fair skin and “eyes of an angel.”
The interrogator, said to be an agent of the Israeli military intelligence branch, at times moves within inches of the teenager, who doesn’t respond and repeatedly asserts her right to remain silent.
The Israeli military says a complaint of improper conduct by the investigator, filed by Tamimi’s lawyer, has been handed to the Justice Ministry and is being “thoroughly examined.”
Ahed’s father, Bassem, tells reporters that the video is evidence of Israel’s failure to break his daughter. He portrays Tamimi as a symbol of resistance to Israel’s 51-year-old military control of the West Bank. Her silence under pressure shows that “we are not victims, we are fighters for the cause of freedom of our people,” he says.
Ahed Tamimi is serving an eight-month prison term — the result of a plea deal — for slapping and kicking two Israeli soldiers outside her West Bank home in mid-December.
Netanyahu said to congratulate Hungary’s Orban, invite him to Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulates his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban on his election victory, Channel 10 reports.
Netanyahu also invites Orban to visit Israel soon, according to the network.
Channel 10 reports Netanyahu was the first world leader to call Orban following his right-wing Fidesz party’s election win Sunday.
Kremlin says it wasn’t informed in advance of Syria strike attributed to Israel
The Kremlin says it wasn’t informed ahead of time of any upcoming airstrike on a Syrian air base earlier today.
Syria’s state media reported the airstrike earlier today, and activists said it killed at least 14 people. The Russian military later said that the Israeli Air Force was behind it. Israel has not confirmed these reports.
Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, tells reporters that Israel had not spoken to the president ahead of the airstrike even though there may have been Russian military advisers at the base, which he described as “a cause for concern for us.”
Peskov says reports of an alleged poison gas attack in the suburbs of the Syrian capital needs to be investigated but said it was “wrong and dangerous” to draw any conclusions before a probe is completed.
White supremacist flyers posted at several Vermont libraries
BURLINGTON, Vermont — Authorities say white supremacist flyers have been posted at several libraries in Vermont, many on college campuses.
WPTZ-TV reports flyers were found at Middlebury College, Southern Vermont College and the Rutland Free Library. The flyers quote Bible verses and include pictures of the Confederate flag.
Similar flyers were posted earlier this year at the University of Vermont and Champlain College. Police traced the flyers back to a state resident and an out-of-towner. Police said it appeared they “intended to cause strife, disruption and mistrust” on the campuses but that their actions didn’t rise to the level of criminal activity.
University of Vermont President Tom Sullivan says the university and other educational institutions around the country have recently seen “a proliferation of racist messaging.”
— MyNBC5 (WPTZ) (@MyNBC5) April 6, 2018
Report: US notified ahead of Syria strike blamed on Israel
A pair of US officials tell NBC News that Israel was behind the deadly airstrike on a Syrian air base earlier today and that the US was notified ahead of the strike.
The NBC News report comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman says the Kremlin was not warned of the attack in advance.
Israelis military officials have refused to comment on the airstrike, which Russia and Syria have blamed on Israel.
— NBC News (@NBCNews) April 9, 2018
Iran’s rial hits all-time low against the dollar
TEHRAN, Iran — Iranians are lining up to try and purchase foreign currencies after the rial hit an all-time low against the US dollar.
On Monday the rial was trading at 62,000 to the dollar, an 18 percent drop since Saturday, which was the first working day after the Persian new year, when many people travel abroad.
Iran brings in some $75 billion a year in foreign currency, mostly from crude oil exports, which resumed after the 2015 nuclear deal. But the country remains largely cut off from international financial networks because of US sanctions.
The local currency has been weighed down by fears the Trump administration will withdraw from the nuclear deal and impose new sanctions.
Report: Austrian Holocaust denier Gerd Honsik dead at 76
BERLIN — Gerd Honsik, an Austrian author who was considered a leading ideologue in Europe’s neo-Nazi movement, has died at 76.
The Austria Press Agency reports Honsik died Saturday at his home in Hungary. APA cites “multiple independent sources” in its report Monday.
Honsik was convicted of taking part in far-right attacks in Vienna in the 1960s and later joined the since-banned Austrian far-right party NDP.
Over the following decades he was repeatedly convicted of Holocaust denial and incitement by publishing anti-Semitic and racist books and pamphlets.
Honsik, who sometimes used the pseudonym Endsik — alluding to the Nazi quest for final victory or “Endsieg” — was last released in 2011 having served a prison term in Spain for claiming that the Holocaust was a fabrication.
Iran media: Three Iranians killed in Syria strike blamed on Israel
Three Iranian military officials were killed in an airstrike in Syria attributed to Israel, Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency reports.
Fars described the three men as “defenders of the shrine,” referring to the Shiite shrine of Sayida Zeinab in the Damascus suburbs. Iran and its allies often say their fighters are in Syria to protect the holy site.
Netanyahu thanks Hungary’s Orban for support at international forums
The Prime Minister’s Office says Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban on his reelection, confirming an earlier report.
The PMO says Netanyahu invited Orban to visit Israel and thanked him for Hungary’s support of Israel at international organizations.
A Channel 10 report earlier said Netanyahu was the first foreign leader to congratulate Orban.
Mattis won’t rule out retaliatory strikes over suspected Syria gas attack
WASHINGTON — US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Monday points toward Russia’s role in a suspected poison gas attack in Syria, and says he will not rule out a military response.
“The first thing we have to look at is why are chemical weapons still being used at all when Russia was the framework guarantor of removing all the chemical weapons,” Mattis says at the Pentagon in a meeting with his Qatari counterpart.
“Working with our allies and our partners from NATO to Qatar and elsewhere, we are going to address this issue …. I don’t rule out anything right now.”
Turkey condemns Israel over Gaza border clashes
Turkey condemns Israel over recent actions of its military defending the country’s border with Gaza.
“We wish Allah’s mercy upon those who lost their lives and speedy recovery to the wounded in the attacks,” the Turkish foreign ministry says in a statement.
“We expect that international community to take a joint stance against Israel which, despite repeated warnings, tramples international law in an aggressive manner and does not even hesitate to target journalists in the line of duty,” it adds, referring to a Palestinian journalist killed during clashes Friday.
The Israeli military has denied it deliberately targeted Yasser Murtaja and said it is investigating the incident.
Tens of thousands of Gazans took part Friday in the second successive Hamas-backed “March of Return” at the Gaza border. The army said protesters burned tires and threw bombs, Molotov cocktails, and rocks at Israeli soldiers. Several attempts were made to breach the border fence. Soldiers responded with tear gas, rubber bullets, and in some cases live fire. Palestinians said nine Gazans, including Murtaja, were killed and over 1,000 wounded in the clashes.
— with Raphael Ahren
Regev attacks opposition amid reports Honduras leader may skip anniversary event
Culture Minister Miri Regev lashes out at opposition lawmakers amid reports Honduras’ president is reconsidering attending the torch lighting ceremony next week marking Israel’s 70th Independence Day.
“If the Honduran president decides not to arrive in light of the slander from members of the opposition — chief among them [Meretz] MK Tamar Zandberg — it is ugly and shows that the opposition has joined the BDS organizations against Israel,” she tells reporters.
Zandberg on Saturday called for Juan Orlando Hernandez’s invitation to the ceremony to be rescinded, calling Honduras a corrupt human rights violator and saying Hernandez’s presence would dishonor Israel.
The Ynet news site reported earlier today that a representative of Hernandez contacted the Foreign Ministry to say that the Honduran president was reconsidering participating in the ceremony due to the criticism directed at him and the atmosphere created around his arrival.
Other reports, however, said that Hernandez’s concern was not the criticism directed at him, but rather the local political controversy surrounding the ceremony.
Netanyahu meets families of slain soldiers held by Hamas
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with the families of Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, IDF soldiers whose bodies are held by the Hamas terror group.
Netanyahu updated the families on the “unceasing efforts” to return their bodies, including both “open and covert ways,” the Prime Minister’s Office says. The two soldiers were killed in Gaza during the 2014 war with Hamas.
The meeting was attended by Yaron Blum, a Shin Bet veteran who in October became the point man for efforts to return the bodies of Israelis being held by Hamas.
The terror group is also believed to be holding Israeli citizens Avraham Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who are said to have entered Gaza on their own accord.
Honduras president won’t attend Independence Day ceremony
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez won’t attend Israeli Independence Day celebrations next week, the Foreign Ministry announces.
“The Foreign Ministry regrets his not coming and welcomes the friendship between the two countries,” it says in a statement.
A report earlier today said Hernandez was considering dropping out of the 70th Independence Day activities due to the criticism directed at him and the atmosphere created around his arrival.
Syria: Israel only able to carry out strike due to ‘unlimited support’ of US
Syria says Israel was only able to carry out an airstrike on a central Syrian air base because of the “unlimited support of the American administration.”
Syria has blamed Israel for a missile attack on a central air base early Monday that reportedly killed 14 people, including four Iranians. Israel typically does not comment on its operations in Syria, where it has carried out more than 100 strikes since 2012, mainly targeting weapons convoys.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry says in a letter sent to the United Nations on Monday that Israel is “practicing state terrorism and threatens security and peace in the region and the world.”
The ministry says Syria will not hesitate to “practice its right to defend its land, people and sovereignty by all means that are in accordance with the UN charter.”
It says the airstrike on the T4 air base was conducted by Israeli warplanes flying over the airspace of neighboring Lebanon. The ministry says the attack left a number of Syrian citizens dead or wounded.
After Syria strike, Netanyahu warns enemies against threatening Israel
Following a deadly airstrike on a Syrian military base attributed to Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel will actively deal with any threats to its security.
“We have one clear and simple rule and we seek to express it constantly: If someone tries to attack you – rise up and attack him,” Netanyahu says at a ceremony in Sderot.
He also says: “Security in the present is a necessary condition for security in the future and what we have here today is a powerful expression for our future security.”
Netanyahu doesn’t directly address the strike earlier today in Syria or Israel’s alleged involvement.
Trump: ‘Major decisions’ coming on Syria in ’24-48 hours’
WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump says Monday that “major decisions” would be made on a Syria response in the next day or two, after warning that Damascus would have a “big price to pay” over an alleged chemical attack on a rebel-held town.
Trump condemns what he calls a “heinous attack on innocent” Syrians in Douma, as he opens a cabinet meeting at the White House.
The suspected gas attack left dozens dead, according to rescuers and medics. Syria and its ally Russia have denied any use of chemical weapons.
“This is about humanity — it can’t be allowed to happen,” Trump says, adding that decisions would come in the “next 24-48 hours.”
Iran condemns deadly strike on Syrian base
Iran condemns an airstrike on a Syrian air base that killed four Iranians, including a Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps colonel.
The Syrian government blamed Monday’s pre-dawn strike on Israel, which does not typically comment on its operations in Syria. A war monitoring group said the strike killed a total of 14 people.
State-run TV quotes Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi as saying the attack was a “violation of national sovereignty and the territorial integrity of this country, and contrary to all international rules and regulations.”
The official IRAN daily says Col. Mehdi Dehghan, a member of the IRGC’s aerospace force, was killed in the attack. The semi-official Fars news agency previously reported that three other Iranians were among those killed, without giving their ranks.
Iran is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad and has sent troops to bolster his forces. Iran insists its soldiers are only in Syria in an advisory role, but hundreds have been killed since the civil war began in 2011.
Chemical watchdog opens investigation into Syria attack
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says it has opened an investigation over the weekend’s suspected poison gas attack in Syria.
The organization’s director general, Ahmet Uzumcu, expresses “grave concern in response to the alleged chemical weapons attack” over the weekend in the town of Douma, near the capital, Damascus.
A statement by the agency says the OPCW has been closely monitoring the incident and made a preliminary analysis of the reports of the alleged use of chemical weapons immediately after they were issued.
Monday’s statement says a fact-finding mission is in the process of gathering further information from all available sources to establish whether chemical weapons were used.
The OPCW is the implementing body of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which was signed by 192 states. Syria signed on to the convention in 2013.
Army investigating video of Israeli sniper shooting Gazan near border
The Israeli military says it is investigating a video that surfaced on Monday that appears to show IDF troops cheering as an army sniper shoots and fells a Palestinian who approached the Gaza security fence, presumably during a recent demonstration.
The video, which was widely shared on the WhatsApp messaging application, was apparently filmed through a scope or binoculars.
The soldiers can be heard discussing the shot ahead of time, as the sniper trains his rifle on the suspect, who is seen standing next to another Palestinian crouching in front of a roll of barbed wire several meters away from the security fence.
It was not immediately clear when or where the video was filmed, but it appears to be from the recent protests along the Gaza border.
“The moment he stops, you drop him. Do you have a bullet in the chamber? Are you [trained] on him?” the commander asks.
The sharpshooter can then be heard saying he cannot fire because his shot is blocked by the rolls of barbed wire along the security fence.
One soldier, apparently the one filming it, calls over a friend a moment before a gunshot is heard and the Palestinian suspect is seen crumpling to the ground.
“Whoa! What a video! YES! Son of a bitch. What a video! Look they’re running to evacuate him,” the soldier filming the incident enthuses.
“Of course I filmed it,” he adds, responding to a question.
Another soldier is then heard saying, “Whoa, [he] hit him in the head.”
As a group of Palestinians can be seen carrying the injured man away, the photographer adds, “What a legendary video.”
Asked about the video, the Israel Defense Forces says it is looking into the matter.
— Judah Ari Gross
Zuckerberg apologizes for data privacy scandal
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says his company was too slow to spot or respond to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. He is also apologizing for a privacy scandal that allowed third-party apps to harvest the personal data of users without their consent.
Zuckerberg says in an opening statement to be delivered to congressional committees, “I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”
He says that includes “fake news, foreign interference in elections, and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy.”
Zuckerberg says Facebook is an “idealistic and optimistic company.” But he says Facebook did not take a broad enough view of its responsibility. He says that was a “big mistake.”
He is scheduled to testify Tuesday and Wednesday before Senate and House oversight committees.
Army says video of Gaza border sniper likely filmed months ago
The Israeli military says a video circulating Monday appearing to show soldiers celebrating after shooting a Palestinian near the Gaza border was likely not recorded during recent clashes.
“The event depicted apparently occurred a number of months ago. The incident is being reviewed and will be thoroughly investigated,” the Israel Defense Forces said.
The video has been shared widely on the WhatsApp messaging application and featured prominently in the main news broadcasts this evening.
Rights group condemns sniper video, says shooting wasn’t a one-off
Rights group B’Tselem releases a statement condemning a video appearing to show soldiers cheering after shooting a Palestinian near the Gaza border, claiming the incident wasn’t a lone occurrence.
“B’Tselem expresses remorse over the existence of blatantly illegal orders that instruct soldiers to shoot people who endanger no one,” it said.
“Shooting similar to what is seen in the video has occurred hundreds of times in recent weeks in the Gaza Strip and caused deaths and injuries — all this with the full backing of the political echelon and senior officers in the military,” it adds.
B’Tselem says condemnations of the shooting by public figures are “meaningless,” and claims the military investigation “will whitewash the truth.”
The army earlier said it would investigate the incident depicted in the video, which it said appeared to take place several months ago.
Holocaust survivors sue publisher over Nazi-era books
WARSAW, Poland — Two Holocaust survivors and a Polish anti-Nazi resistance fighter have filed a lawsuit against the publisher of books praising Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler in a civil case that the plaintiffs’ lawyers say on Monday is the first of its kind in Poland.
The lawsuit against Katmar, a publisher based in the Baltic port city of Gdansk, focuses on two pro-Nazi propaganda books by Belgian Nazi collaborator and SS officer Leon Degrelle, entitled, “The Age of Hitler 1,” “The Age of Hitler 2,” and “Hitler the Democrat.”
Degrelle led Belgium’s far-right Rex Party before the war, and then became a Nazi SS officer, decorated by Hitler.
“The promotion of Nazism and Holocaust denial is a criminal offence in Poland, and in theory prosecutable in the criminal courts, but in practice public prosecutors fail to act effectively in the majority of cases,” Wojciech Kozlowski, a lawyer with the Dentons global solicitors, tells AFP.
“This is the first civil case of its kind ever brought in Poland,” he says, adding that prosecutors had rejected a previous suit against the Katmar publications under an article in Poland’s criminal code outlawing hate speech.
Launching a civil case means that courts have no choice but to deliberate it.
The plaintiffs argue that the Katmar publications authored by Degrelle can be regarded as pro-Nazi propaganda rather than a historical record because they do not contain a forward that would contextualize their content.