The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s developments as they unfolded.
Washington Post reporter briefly detained in Jerusalem
Washington Post Jerusalem bureau chief William Booth is briefly detained by police in Jerusalem on accusations of “incitement.” The incident takes place at Damascus Gate, outside of the Old City. Booth’s colleague Ruth Marks Eglash says he is “harassed” by cops.
— Ruth Marks Eglash (@reglash) February 16, 2016
Booth and his cameraman were interviewing locals near the Damascus Gate next to the Old City of Jerusalem. An Arab woman told him that she could get some of the bystanders to demonstrate against the police if he paid them, police spokesperson Asi Aharoni tells The Times of Israel.
Someone who saw the scene unfolding contacted nearby Border Police officers. The officers approached Booth and his photographer and asked that they come with them, Aharoni says.
They were taken to a nearby police station to be briefly questioned and have already been released, the spokesperson says.
— Judah Ari Gross contributed
Auschwitz museum app corrects ‘Polish death camps’
The Auschwitz museum on Tuesday launches a multi-lingual computer application that writers can use to avoid referring to Nazi German death camps as being “Polish.”
Warsaw routinely requests corrections when global media or politicians describe as “Polish” former death camps like Auschwitz set up by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II.
The move comes after Poland’s new right-wing government proposed jail terms of up to five years for anyone who refers to Nazi death camps as Polish.
Even if used as a geographical indicator, Poles insist the term can give the impression that they bore some responsibility for the Holocaust.
Dubbed “Remember,” the application is intended “to help avoid the use of the term ‘Polish concentration camps’ or ‘Polish death camps’ in 16 languages,” according to a statement issued by the Auschwitz state museum in Oswiecim, southern Poland on Tuesday.
Italy releases classified documents on Nazi war crimes
The Italian government releases thousands of previously classified documents related to fascist and Nazi war crimes committed in Italy during World War II.
The documents are declassified from a parliamentary commission that had investigated the concealment of files related to these crimes. Specifically, the commission had dealt with what was dubbed the “cabinet of shame” – a wooden cabinet discovered in 1994 in a storeroom of the military prosecutor’s headquarters in which 695 files on war crimes had been hidden for decades.
The documents concern specifics of crimes ranging from anti-Jewish persecution to massacres of civilians that in total had resulted in 15,000 deaths.
On Tuesday, the historical archives of the Chamber of Deputies put an index of some 13,000 pages of material on its website. The documents include declassified material from the investigating commission as well original documents that had been hidden in the “cabinet of shame.” Users can consult the online index and request digital copies of specific documents.
Renzo Gattegna, the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities calls the move a “historic breakthrough.” Opening the “cabinet of shame” to the public, he says, “fills a serious gap and announces the start of a new season of awareness about the crimes and responsibilities of fascism and Nazism in Italy.”
German FM condemns ‘despicable terror’ in Israel
Germany’s foreign minister says the situation in the Palestinian territories isn’t sustainable in the long term.
In an op-ed published ahead of a German-Israeli cabinet meeting Tuesday, Frank-Walter Steinmeier condemns the near-daily street attacks by Palestinians that have killed 27 Israelis in the past fice months as “despicable terror.”
In the article for daily Bild, Steinmeier stresses Germany’s view that only serious negotiations aimed at a fair, two-state solution can offer hope of peace for Israel and the Palestinians.
Belgium arrests 10 linked to IS network
Belgian police on Tuesday arrest ten people in the Brussels area who are allegedly part of a network recruiting people to fight with the Islamic State group in Syria, prosecutors say.
The ten are arrested during raids in several areas of the Belgian capital, including the Molenbeek quarter where several of the key suspects in the November Paris attacks lived.
The federal prosecutor’s office says however that the arrests were not linked to the Paris bomb and gun attacks, claimed by IS, which left 130 people dead and hundreds injured.
“The raids were carried out as part of an investigation into a recruitment network linked to Islamic State. The investigation helped determine that several people had traveled to Syria to join Islamic State,” it says.
Kremlin denies Russian strikes on Syria hospitals
Russia is not bombing hospitals in northern Syria, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says Tuesday, calling such reports “unsubstantiated accusations.”
“Once again, we categorically reject and do not accept such statements,” he says when asked whether Russian planes bombed hospitals in Syria, including one supported by Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
“Especially since every time, those who make such statements are unable to prove in any way their unsubstantiated accusations.”
The Kremlin spokesman adds that Moscow prefers to rely on “first-hand sources” of information, which he says in this case would be the Syrian government.
Syria’s ambassador to Russia, Riad Haddad, on Monday accuses the United States of bombing the MSF hospital and said that “Russian warplanes had nothing to do with any of it.”
Strikes on hospitals in Idlib and Azaz killed almost 50 civilians including children, according to the United Nations, with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon saying the raids violated international law and undermined efforts to end the five-year conflict.
Merkel sympathizes with Israel over ‘eradicated borders’
In a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel says that shifting borders in Syria makes her sympathize with Israel.
Chancellor Merkel says that geographic borders are being eradicated by Syria, Germany feels a bit what Israel goes through
— Raphael Ahren (@RaphaelAhren) February 16, 2016
— Raphael Ahren (@RaphaelAhren) February 16, 2016
In Berlin, Netanyahu defends MK suspension bill
At the press conference, Netanyahu defends the controversial MK suspension bill.
“There are differences between anarchy and democracy,” he says.
He says democracy has to defend itself.
— Raphael Ahren
PM says Israel does not arrest journalists
Addressing the brief detention of Washington Post reporter William Booth, Netanyahu says: “We do not arrest journalists. The press in Israel is very energetic and free to say anything it wants.”
— Raphael Ahren
Government press office ‘regrets’ reporter’s arrest
The Government Press Office releases a statement apologizing for the “unfortunate misunderstanding” in which Washington Post reporter William Booth was detained.
The Government Press Office regrets today’s incident at Damascus Gate in which a correspondent for the Washington Post was unnecessarily detained by the Border Police – probably the result of an unfortunate misunderstanding. Freedom of the press is a supreme value in the Israeli democracy. Israel is doing its utmost to enable the foreign press to work freely, without any pressure. We call upon the security forces and journalists to act with restraint and to avoid confrontations during these tense times. The GPO endeavors to prevent such incidents; we shall examine today’s events and draw the necessary conclusions.
PM says French peace initiative ‘mystifying’
Netanyahu says the French peace initiative is “mystifying.”
“It ensures, in advance, that the conference will fail,” says the prime minister.
France has said that if a new round of peace talks failed to yield results, it would unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state.
“There is [only] one way to advance peace: Direct negotiations without preconditions. Anyone who does otherwise will not advance successful negotiations,” Netanyahu says.
Merkel reiterates her commitment to the two-state solution, but says “perhaps now is not the time for major steps, but for little improvements of the situation.”
— Raphael Ahren
Foreign Ministry to press cops over Booth’s arrest
The Foreign Ministry says it will demand answers from police regarding the brief detention of The Washington Post’s Booth.
“This is a regrettable incident, casting an unnecessary shadow over the work of an excellent journalist. The MFA will ask the Police for the necessary clarifications,” says spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon.
— Raphael Ahren
We must break free of prejudice, Peres tells Power
US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power meets with former president Shimon Peres.
“Hope is not limited to one field or a place,” Peres tells Power. “The problem is that we are unable to break free of the habits, prejudices, and hatred of the past. Until we are able to break away from them, the many possibilities and courses of action are not open before us.”
Power on Monday met with Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin.
Merkel joins PM on tour of Holocaust exhibit
Merkel spontaneously decides to accompany Netanyahu as he visits a Yad Vashem Holocaust exhibition at a Berlin museum.
— Botschaft Israel (@IsraelinGermany) February 16, 2016
— Raphael Ahren
Foreign Press Association slams reporters’ arrests
The Foreign Press Association protests “in the strongest possible terms the detention today by Israeli border police of William Booth, the Washington Post’s Jerusalem bureau chief, and Sufian Taha, the paper’s West Bank correspondent.”
In a harsh statement, the organization decries the “absurd” accusation against the two reporters, and offers a different account on how the incident unfolded.
“Shortly after noon, the two were interviewing Palestinian and Jewish residents of Jerusalem at Damascus Gate, along with Washington Post correspondent Ruth Eglash. When Booth and Taha tried to interview some high-school students on the steps opposite the gate, police waved them away. They then retreated to interview the teenagers under a tree. Shortly after, border police waved the two journalists over and asked them for their IDs. They presented their Government Press Office cards as identification, but these were waved away and they were asked for official identity documents,” it says.
“Although the journalists made it very clear that they were reporting a story for the Washington Post, police took them to a nearby police station, where they were held for about 40 minutes, then released. When they asked police why they had been held, police said they had suspected the journalists of ‘inciting’ Palestinians.
“The FPA protests this absurd accusation against a respected international news outlet, as well as the detention, however brief, of an accredited foreign journalist and his Palestinian colleague.
“We note that it comes in the context of heavy-handed tactics – including violent attacks – deployed in recent months by border police against foreign journalists and their Palestinian co-workers covering the unrest in Jerusalem and the West Bank. We do not think it is coincidental that a baseless accusation of ‘incitement’ was made at a time when blanket accusations of bias are being leveled against the foreign press by Israeli officials and commentators. We furthermore urge Israeli police and other authorities to recognize their own government-issued GPO cards and allow those holding them to work without hindrance.”
Danish search for migrant valuables brings in ‘nothing’
Denmark’s controversial law allowing police to search asylum seekers and confiscate their valuables to help pay for their accommodation has raised no money in its first 11 days, police say on Tuesday.
The new rules, which allow for cash or items without “sentimental value” — hence no wedding rings — to be seized if they are worth more than 10,000 kroner (1,340 euros, $1,498), have brought in “nothing” since coming into force on February 5, a police spokesman tells AFP.
Last week 230 people applied for asylum in Denmark, according to the Danish Immigration Service.
“I don’t think it has ever been about raising money,” says Pernille Skipper, a spokeswoman for the left-wing Red Green Alliance party.
Rather, the “symbolic” move was aimed at “scaring refugees into traveling to other European countries than Denmark,” she adds.
Egypt closes Gaza border after rare 3-day opening
Nearly 2,500 people left Gaza during a three-day humanitarian opening of the border with Egypt, a rare opportunity for Gazans to leave the blockaded enclave, authorities in the Palestinian territory say Tuesday.
The Hamas-run interior ministry in Gaza says 2,439 people left the territory over the three days, while 1,122 entered and 334 were turned back by Egyptian authorities.
The border was closed again on Tuesday, a ministry statement says, after “Egyptian authorities informed us of the shutting down of the Rafah crossing.”
Egypt originally opened the border for humanitarian cases for two days from Saturday but that was extended for an extra day on Monday.
Before Saturday, the crossing had been closed for 70 days, the ministry says.
The United Nations has registered 30,000 Palestinians as “humanitarian cases” seeking to leave Gaza.
Germany will normalize ties with Iran after it recognizes Israel – Merkel
Even though Iran has agreed to a landmark deal curbing its nuclear activities, relations can only fully normalize when it recognizes the existence of Israel, German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Tuesday
Speaking alongside Netanyahu, Merkel tells reporters after a meeting of the two countries’ cabinets that she’s “made very clear” that “there cannot be a normal, friendly relationship with Iran so long as the existence of Israel is not recognized.”
Paris attack victims’ groups testify to lack of preparation
Groups representing the victims of the November 13 jihadist attacks in Paris have begun providing chilling testimony to parliamentary investigators, denouncing what they called “an atrocious lack of preparation” for an emergency in which 130 people lost their lives.
“We have a thousand questions and we expect answers,” says Georges Salines, head of one of several victims’ associations represented Monday at the first of a series of hearings to be held over coming weeks.
Salines, a doctor, says he learned of his daughter’s death at the Bataclan concert hall the day after the massacre there of 90 people at the hands of jihadist gunmen.
Recounting how he had heard of the death only indirectly through Twitter, he denounces an “atrocious lack of preparation” in terms of information-sharing on the bloody night itself and over the following days.
The commission of inquiry was set up at the request of the conservative opposition Republican party to look into the Socialist government’s efforts to counter the terror threat since the previous set of attacks to rock France — the assault in January 2015 that began with the killings at the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly and ended with 17 dead over three days.
In playful photo, Ya’alon pokes fun at nickname
In a photo posted to his Facebook page, Defense Minister Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon poses next to a Boggi Milano men’s clothing store.
“Who said kibbutzniks don’t have style? #Bogistyle,” he writes.
Former UN chief Boutros Boutros-Ghali dies
Former UN secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who led the world body from 1992 to 1996, has died, Venezuela’s ambassador and this month’s Security Council president announces Tuesday.
“We have been informed that the former secretary-general Boutros Boutros Ghali has passed away,” Ambassador Rafael Ramirez tells the council.
Power and Ya’alon meet, discuss Israeli security
Power meets Ya’alon to discuss security cooperation along with the security challenges facing Israel.
“Ambassador Power underscored the unprecedented level of intelligence and security cooperation between the two countries,” a statement from the State Department says.
“Ambassador Power and Defense Minister Ya’alon discussed the situation in the West Bank, in Gaza, and regarding efforts to address shared security threats in the region, such as those posed by Hamas, Hezbollah, and ISIL. They agreed that the destabilizing effects of the civil war in Syria, including the millions of refugees displaced by the conflict, underscored the urgent need to find a political solution to the crisis. In addition, Ambassador Power and Defense Minister Ya’alon discussed ways Israel could play a role in UN peacekeeping efforts.”
Also Tuesday, Power, Israel’s ambassador to the UN Danny Danon and US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro were given a helicopter tour of Israel, while being briefed on threats to Israel’s security.
3 Americans seized in Iraq are released
Three Americans who were kidnapped in the Iraqi capital Baghdad last month have been released, the State Department says Tuesday.
“We sincerely appreciate the assistance provided by the government of Iraq, and its whole-of-government effort to bring about the safe release of these individuals,” deputy spokesman Mark Toner says in a statement.
Senior Egged officials to be grilled over fatal crash
Senior officials in the Egged bus company will be interrogated by police about the fatal bus crash on Route 1 on Sunday, Channel 2 reports.
The bus driver in the deadly collision, in which six people were killed, crashed on the same route in 2013, also smashing into a truck and overturning the vehicle on the main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv artery.
“We won’t tolerate accidents like this due to negligence,” police say. “The more we learn [about the incident], we see that the entire company bears responsibility.”
Israeli cellphone firm now using own brand after Orange split
Israeli cellphone firm Partner announces on Tuesday it has begun operating under its own name after splitting with French company Orange following a major diplomatic dispute last year.
Orange announced in June that it would retake control of its brand in Israel, agreeing to pay up to 90 million euros ($100 million) to do so. The brand had been licensed to Partner for use in Israel until 2025.
Orange currently has research facilities in Israel but is not a mobile phone operator.
Attempts by the French company to recover use of its Orange brand in Israel led to a major diplomatic row after the head of the company, Stephane Richard, made comments that were interpreted as a desire to boycott the country for political reasons.
Soldier jailed for 9 months for abuse of Palestinian detainees
An IDF soldier is sentenced to nine months in prison and is demoted to the rank of private for abusing Palestinian detainees by subjecting them to electric shocks, Army Radio reports.
The soldier, a member of the ultra-Orthodox Netzah Yehuda battalion, is also handed a six-month suspended sentence.
In first, Dutch jets bomb IS targets in Syria
Dutch F-16 fighter jets have bombed Islamic State targets for the first time in Syria since broadening its mission in the US-led air campaign, the Defense Ministry says on Tuesday.
“Dutch F-16s carried out around 10 missions over Iraq and eastern Syria,” the Hague-based ministry says in its weekly summary of operations on its website.
It is the first time the summary has mentioned targets in Syria since the Dutch government late last month announced it was fanning out its current air support mission over Iraq into Syria, in the wake of US and French requests.
The airstrikes were directed against “combat positions, military equipment and strategic aims of the IS terror organization,” the ministry says, without detailing when and where the attacks took place.
Iranian defense minister in Moscow to boost military ties
The Iranian defense minister is visiting Moscow for talks about closer military cooperation.
Gen. Hossein Dehghan meets Tuesday with President Vladimir Putin and also holds talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu.
Shoigu hails a “high level of mutual trust” between Moscow and Tehran and their readiness to coordinate policies.
Russia and Iran both have backed Syrian President Bashar Assad throughout Syria’s civil war.
Dehghan says in an interview with Russian state television that Tehran wants to expand military and technical ties with Russia.
South Africa water confab canceled over participation of Israeli envoy
A Johannesburg conference dealing with the water crisis in South Africa is canceled due to criticism concerning the inclusion of Israel’s ambassador to South Africa.
The envoy, Arthur Lenk, was to be part of a panel at the conference scheduled for the end of February on “equitable and sustainable water management for poverty alleviation,” the Cape Times reports Tuesday. The conference was organized by the Mail and Guardian newspaper
“We are willing to share expertise to help South Africa with its drought problems,” says Michael Freeman, an Israeli Embassy spokesman. “We were looking forward to helping South Africa and any other country in the world that faces similar problems.”
BDS South Africa in a statement welcomes the cancellation, as well as the pledge by some of the sponsors and organizers that any future event would not include the Israeli ambassador.
The boycott movement also says it is pleased that “the rug has been pulled from the Israeli ambassador who will not be able to exploit our very serious water crises for his own cheap publicity and whitewashing of his regime. Israeli water technology is not unique or special; such technology is widely available through other more friendly countries.”
Nasrallah to Arab states: How can you consider Israel an ally?
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah slams Sunni Arab states for reportedly moving closer to Israel.
“Do you accept a friend occupying Sunni land in Palestine? Can you become friends with an entity that has committed the most horrible massacres against the Sunni community?” says the leader of the Lebanese terror group, according to Naharnet. “You are free to consider Iran an enemy but how can you consider Israel a friend and an ally? This issue must be confronted in a serious manner.”
“It is beneficial to monitor the Israeli media to realize that the Israeli rhetoric has become identical to the rhetoric reflected in some Arab media, especially in the Gulf and Saudi Arabia,” he says.
Nasrallah’s comments came two days after Netanyahu said it was time for Israel to make its secret ties with Arab states public.
Hezbollah not seeking war with Israel — Nasrallah
Nasrallah says Hezbollah does not want war with Israel, and certainly not in the near future, according to a Channel 2 translation.
But he claims Hezbollah could defeat Israel in a war.
And he is adamant that Israel knows it cannot quickly defeat Hezbollah and therefore doesn’t start a war.
He quotes an unnamed Israeli official who ostensibly has said that were Hezbollah to hit one of the Haifa area’s ammonia facilities, it would have an impact like a nuclear bomb, causing tens of thousands of Israeli fatalities.
He says, in remarks he addresses to Israel’s chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot, that Israel’s air force can do what it wishes in Lebanon, “but I can hit the ammonia facilities.” He says he did not attempt to do this in the 2006 war.
Nasrallah also accuses Israel of behind-the-scenes intervention in Syria. He warns the Saudis not to ally with Israel over Syria. And he says victory is close in Syria. “We won’t let Assad fall,” he vows.
“Israel is coordinating with Saudi Arabia and Turkey,” he claims.
Police apologize for arresting WaPo reporters
The Israel Police apologize for the detention of Washington Post bureau chief William Booth and a colleague.
The police say in a statement that the incident has been investigated, and conclude that the “questioning was necessary in light of the information” police received, even though the tip-off turned out to be false.
“If any of the detainees endured emotional distress, we are sorry for that,” a police spokesperson says.
The police are instructed to allow journalists to work in sensitive and dangerous areas “with an emphasis on public safety and securing the journalists themselves, while respecting the important value of the freedom of the press,” a police statement says.