The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they unfolded.
‘Suspension bill’ to get Knesset vote, despite lack of majority
A controversial bill that would allow a vote by 90 MKs to suspend a fellow lawmaker for “unseemly behavior” will be presented to the Knesset plenum this evening for voting, despite the fact that the coalition has not mustered the necessary support to pass it.
The legislation was drafted followed a meeting early last month between Arab MKs from the Joint List faction and families of Palestinian terrorists killed while carrying out attacks on Israelis.
Channel 2 says the bill has the backing of 59 MKs — two short of the majority required in the 120-seat parliament. Likud MKs David Amsalem and Abraham Naguise have already announced they will not support the bill.
According to Channel 2, coalition hopes lie with winning over hawkish opposition MK Avigdor Liberman and his Yisrael Beytenu party. PM Netanyahu believes that Liberman would not want to be seen as the one to “save” the Arab MKs, and is gambling on that fact to win the party leader’s backing, despite his declaration that he will not vote for the bill.
3 arrested for attempted sale of stolen IDF weapon
Two residents of Arad in southern Israel are arrested on suspicion of seeking to buy a gun stolen from an IDF soldier by his teenage brother. The 15-year-old is also under arrest.
Channel 10 television says that the two would-be buyers, who allegedly have connections to the underworld in central Israel, wanted to buy the gun for NIS 15,000 (approx. $4,000).
The 15-year-old brother and the two Arad residents are to be indicted today in Beersheba. Prosecutors are asking that all three be held until the end of legal proceedings against them.
New video of 3rd suspect in Brussels airport attack
Belgian police release new video footage of a third suspect whose bomb failed to go off at Brussels airport in last week’s attack.
The footage shows the man wearing a hat and white jacket pushing a trolley with a large bag through the departure hall, next to suicide bombers Ibrahim El Bakraoui and Najim Laachraoui.
“It’s a new video which had not previously been released,” says a spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office.
A police notice issued with the video — still images from which have previously been released — says that officers “want to identify this man.”
Prosecutors are still working on the theory that the so-called “man in the hat” is Faycal Cheffou, who has been charged with terrorist offences in relation to the airport attack, according to a source close to the inquiry. Cheffou is however not cooperating with investigators, the source says.
Gaza teachers rebel over teaching ‘Romeo and Juliet’
Teachers in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip are said to be up in arms over the inclusion of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” in the high school English syllabus drawn up by the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.
According to Britain’s Independent website, the teachers are opposed to the themes of teenage suicide and rebellion against arranged marriage.
The report quotes a Gaza teacher as saying that she is against teaching the Bard’s tragedies due to their emphasis “on dysfunctional family life and often violent death.”
“There is a contradiction between Islam and our culture and the things Shakespeare is trying to convey,” says Jehan al-Okka from Gaza City. “’Romeo and Juliet’ encourages suicide and disobeying parents.”
As a result, Palestinian students in Gaza will mainly study “King Lear,” and their West Bank counterparts will study “Romeo and Juliet.”
An official in the PA Education Ministry rejects claims of any conflict with Islamic or Arab cultural values. “Romeo and Juliet” is part of an “international cultural experience,” he says.
2 East Jerusalem men indicted for IS attack plot
Two residents of East Jerusalem are indicted in Jerusalem District Court for a 2015 plot to blow up a military vehicle.
Ynet says that the two are charged with building an explosive device and planning to use it in an attack in the name of Islamic State.
Turkey says it foiled attacks in recent weeks
A spokesman for Turkey’s President Erdogan says the country has thwarted a spate of planned attacks in recent weeks, including suicide bombings, Reuters reports.
Ibrahim Kalin makes the comments at a news conference in Ankara, eight days after a suicide bombing in Istanbul killed four tourists — three Israelis and an Iranian.
Israel today told its citizens to stay away from Turkey, citing security threats.
Liberman: We’ll support suspension bill, for a price
Avigdor Liberman says that his Yisrael Beytenu opposition party will support the MK suspension bill if Netanyahu’s coalition supports legislation of his in turn.
According to the Israel National News website, Liberman says at the start of his party’s faction meeting that he will not heal the coalition’s woes at Yisrael Beytenu’s expense.
The coalition is at least two votes short of the 61-MK majority needed to pass the controversial legislation, which would allow lawmakers to suspend their colleagues, should 90 Knesset members support the move.
Istanbul soccer teams to play delayed derby on April 13
Istanbul soccer giants Fenerbahce and Galatasaray will clash in a crunch derby on April 13 after the original fixture was postponed over fears of a terror attack, the Turkish Football Federation says.
The match, which was due to have been played on March 20, was postponed for security reasons even as fans were starting to enter the ground.
The cancellation of the match came a day after a suicide bomber with links to the Islamic State blew himself up in Istanbul’s busiest shopping street, killing three Israelis and an Iranian.
The chairman of the Turkish Football Federation Yildirim Demiroren says the new date was agreed as a compromise after Fenerbahce pushed for April 6 and Galatasaray for April 28.
“Both clubs have expressed their respect for this decision and I thank them for looking on this positively,” he says, according to the Turkish media.
PM to Indonesian journalists: I have quite a few Indonesian Facebook friends
PM Netanyahu tells a delegation of Indonesian journalists in Israel that it is time for official ties between the two countries, and that he has “quite a few Indonesian friends on Facebook.”
The delegation is in Israel as guests of the Foreign Ministry.
“The time has come for official relations between Indonesia and Israel,” Netanyahu tells the delegation during a meeting in Jerusalem. “We have many opportunities for cooperation in the fields of water and technology.”
He continues: “Israel has excellent relations with a number of countries in Asia, including China, Japan, India and Vietnam. Israel also has relations with Africa, Latin America and Russia. Even relations with the Arab world are changing, for we are allies in the fight against radical Islam.
“Relations between Israel and Indonesia must change too. I have quite a few Facebook friends who are Indonesian. It is time to change the relationship, the reasons that prevented this are no longer relevant, and I hope that your visit will help in this.”
Dutch police find ammo at home of French terror suspect
Dutch police find ammunition in the house of a French national arrested in Rotterdam on suspicion of plotting an attack in France, prosecutors say.
“During the search, phones, SIM cards, hard drives, cash, ammunition and drugs were seized,” says Wim de Bruin, a spokesman for the Dutch prosecutor.
The man, 32, thought to be called Anis B., is suspected of receiving orders from the Islamic State group to attack targets in France along with Reda Kriket, who was nabbed near Paris last week.
No explosives were found during the raid in which a total of four men were arrested, he adds.
Anis. B is expected to be handed over to France after an extradition hearing at an Amsterdam court, de Bruin says, although no date has yet been set.
PM doubles down on suspension bill: Those who back it must vote for it
PM Netanyahu calls on Likud lawmakers who support the so-called MK suspension bill to vote for it in the Knesset later today.
The narrow coalition currently does not have the 61 MKs required to pass the legislation, as two Likud lawmakers are opposed to it.
“I expect all those who say they are in favor of the bill to vote for it,” Netanyahu says at the start of the weekly Likud faction meeting in Jerusalem, according to Ynet. “We cannot give any room or gains to those who encourage terrorism and oppose the State of Israel.”
The prime minister also lashes out again at yesterday’s High Court decision to overturn the deal to develop Israel’s new gas fields, calling it “an erroneous decision.”
Comptroller: IDF troops soliciting donations for weapons, against regulations
State Comptroller Yosef Shapira slams the practice of IDF officers and soldiers seeking direct donations to pay for weaponry, calling it a violation of regulations.
Using the Yiddish term for a beggar, Shapira says that the “schnorrer” phenomenon is causing inequality between various IDF units and creating a serious sense of ill will among IDF fighters, Channel 2 television reports.
Comptroller: Top Defense Ministry appointments decided unfairly
State Comptroller Yosef Shapira slams the system in which the Defense Ministry appoint candidates to senior posts, saying that handling bids for these positions is not conducted a fair manner.
In his report on the defense establishment released today, Shapira says that positions at the highest levels of the Defense Ministry, which are supposed to be selected by a panel, are often chosen personally by the director of the ministry, Army Radio reports.
The comptroller says that the tenders for the posts are not being conducted in a fair and transparent manner, and cites positions such as the leader of a ministry delegation to Europe and the head of the construction branch.
PA to UN: Probe killing of disarmed Palestinian by IDF soldier
The Palestinian Authority is asking the UN to investigate the killing of a disarmed Palestinian attacker by an IDF soldier last week in Hebron, Army Radio reports.
The soldier is currently under Military Police investigation for murder, for shooting the man in the head after he was wounded by gunfire from IDF troops as he stabbed and injured a soldier.
Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian official, tells the UN that Israel has “failed” in the past to reach justice through its investigations, and claims it has previously rewarded unlawful behavior instead of instead of punishing it.
Brussels suspect freed for lack of evidence
IBelgium releases a suspect in last week’s Brussels attacks due to lack of evidence, prosecutors say.
Belgian national Faycal Cheffou was arrested for a suspected role in the March 22 suicide bombings at the city’s airport, which, along with a similar attack at a metro station shortly afterwards, killed 35 people and wounded hundreds more.
The announcement of his release comes hours after Belgian police disseminate new video footage of a third suspect whose bomb failed to go off in the Brussels airport bombings.
The footage shows the man wearing a hat and white jacket pushing a trolley with a large bag through the departure hall, next to suicide bombers Ibrahim El Bakraoui and Najim Laachraoui. Prosecutors had been working on the assumption that Cheffou is the so-called “man in the hat.”
US envoy at BDS confab: Israel must refrain from unilateral steps
US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro tells a conference on boycotts of Israel that the Jewish state should not take any steps that make a two-solution to the conflict with the Palestinians harder to achieve.
“BDS has a clear anti-Israel agenda, but when there is no peace process it makes it difficult for the US,” says Shapiro according to Ynet, whose sister print publication Yedioth Ahronoth is hosting the conference.
“It is up to Israel to refrain from unilateral steps on the ground, such as settlement constriction, that make a two-state solution more remote,” Shapiro says.
Sanders, Clinton tie in high favorability among Jewish voters — Gallup
Jewish Americans score Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton at virtually the same high approval ratings.
Gallup says in a March 24 article that an aggregation of Jewish respondents to its daily polling shows Jewish voters favor Sanders, an Independent Vermont senator, at 61 percent favorable, and Clinton, a former secretary of state, at 60 percent.
Sanders’ unfavorable ratings are 30 percent and Clinton’s are 35 percent.
Among Republican presidential candidates, only Ohio Gov. John Kasich has higher favorable than unfavorable ratings among Jewish voters, 45 percent to 28 percent. Kasich is last among candidates with delegates accumulated in the primaries.
The GOP front-runner, Donald Trump, a real estate magnate, scores 72 percent unfavorable to 24 percent favorable, and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, 72 percent unfavorable to 20 percent favorable.
Gallup does not cite a margin of error, but says it had aggregated “a large sample of interviews” with Jewish respondents since January.
Ya’alon to MKs: Soldier who shot disarmed attacker is not a hero
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon lays into MKs supporting the soldier who shot a disarmed Palestinian attacker in the head after the stabbing of a fellow soldier in Hebron last week.
“There was an initial investigation already on Thursday whose bottom line was that this is a case of a soldier gone bad, not a hero,” Ya’alon tells the Knesset.
“The brigade commander called for a criminal investigation before the video [of the shooting] was published. Since then there has been a Military Police investigation. It is important to state that this is how the IDF chief and the defense minister and the prime minister immediately viewed the incident. We are not like the other side.”
The former military leader also slams “all the fervor and false information and manipulation and attacks on the IDF chief.”
“Do you want a brutalized army that has lost its moral backbone?” he demands. “I am proud of the company commander who pointed out that this was an irregular event. I regret that the coalition includes a minister who instead of calling the defense minister before going the media, called to encourage and support [the soldier].”
This is an apparent reference to right-wing Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who has called the family of the soldier.
Ya’alon continues with a warning to MKs: “Someone who is corrupted has be held accountable. I am asking you not to intervene in these matters… We will see if there is a connection between online incitement and various statements by politicians about a soldier who made the decision to carry out an act that violates the law and our moral values.”
Liberman: Suspension bill is dead, we won’t come to PM’s aid
Hawkish Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman says his party will not support the so-called MK suspension bill, which would allow a majority of 90 lawmakers to suspend colleagues from the Knesset for “unseemly behavior.”
“We see the suspension bill as lost, we will not help the prime minister pass it,” Army Radio quotes the erstwhile Netanyahu ally as saying.
Calling the prime minister “a liar, a cheat and a crook,” Liberman says he “is incapable of getting his coalition to pass anything and blames the entire world for it. He blames the High Court and the opposition. He has a coalition of 61, why is he unable to get those 61 to vote for the suspension bill? Would he be able to get 90 MKs to pass something?”
With the narrowest of coalitions, Netanyahu is struggling to muster the 61 MKs needed to pass the legislation, which is to be presented for a Knesset vote this evening. Two of his Likud party’s lawmakers have already said they will not vote for the bill.
MDA probe: No one said Hebron attacker was free of bomb
Magen David Adom rescue services says that its own investigation into last week’s shooting of a disarmed Palestinian attacker by an IDF soldier in Hebron revealed that no security official confirmed that the attacker did not have an explosives vest before he was shot in the head.
The soldier is currently under Military Police investigation for murder.
Army Radio says that according to the organization, no one at the scene of the attack said that the man was no longer a threat.
The MDA findings contradict military sources who said that before the soldier shot him, the commanding officer had checked the man to make sure he did not have a bomb.
Bennett: I called Hebron soldier’s family, will do so again
Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett hits back at criticism from Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon for calling the family of a soldier who is under murder investigation for shooting a disarmed attacker last week in Hebron.
“The minister called the family of the soldier more than once and will continue to do so,” says a statement from Bennett’s office shortly after Ya’alon makes a blistering attack on MKs interfering in the case.
“Even if their son made a mistake, it is the right of the family to hear and be heard,” the statement continues, according to Haaretz. “This is a family of four combat soldiers, whose world collapsed partly because senior politicians attacked their soldier son before even finding out the facts that took place on the ground. The minister sees every soldier as his children and the families of soldiers as his family, and he who sees a problem in such a conversation has a profound moral blind spot.”
Dozens rally in Beit Shemesh to support Hebron soldier
Around one hundred people demonstrate at the entrance to Beit Shemesh in support of the IDF soldier who is under murder investigation for shooting a disarmed Palestinian attacker in Hebron last week.
Ynet reports that the protesters are carrying signs reading: “Dear family, Beit Shemesh is with you,” and “Bravo to the IDF and [its] soldiers.”
Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbul tells Army Radio that the municipality declines to take a stand on the issue.
Ramle mayor slams treatment of Hebron soldier, plans solidarity rally
Ramle Mayor Yoel Lavi slams the government for its treatment of an IDF soldier under investigation for murder for shooting a disarmed Palestinian attacker in Hebron last week.
“Israel’s strategic leadership has displayed immoral behavior,” Lavi tells Walla, as the local council invites residents of the town to attend a support rally for the unnamed soldier tomorrow.
Cuban Jewish leader: Our synagogues have no need for security
The vice president of the Cuban Jewish community says that the country’s synagogues do not require security.
“We are the only country with a synagogue that has its doors constantly open, where there is no kind of security at all, no kind of guards,” David Prinstein tells the Agencia Judía de Noticias news portal. “There is no type of anti-Semitic expression against Jews and synagogues.”
Prinstein also praises interfaith dialogue as a priority for Jews on the island.
“We are part of a Cuban interreligious platform, where we hold continuous meetings tackling topics in common and positive for all parties,” he says. “This has made possible an excellent relationship with all other religious denominations.”
Prinstein also calls the Cuban government’s relationship with the 1,500-strong Jewish community “excellent.”
“It is a very open relationship, very sincere and above all respectful,” he says.
The island nation has three synagogues and two cemeteries. “It’s just like the saying: two Jews, three synagogues,” Prinstein jokes.
Kuwait said deporting 60 Lebanese for alleged Hezbollah ties
Kuwait is to deport 60 Lebanese for alleged links to Hezbollah in the latest Gulf Arab move against the Shiite militant group, a local newspaper reports.
Those to be deported all had permanent residency which has been revoked, Al-Qabas daily says, adding that those classified as “dangerous cases” are given just two days to leave the country.
It is the second wave of deportations from Kuwait reported since Gulf Arab states blacklisted Hezbollah as a terrorist group earlier this month.
Turkey: Europe lets suspects travel too freely
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeats his criticism of European authorities’ handling of extremists flagged by Turkey, saying they are deliberately allowing them to travel freely.
“This was their way of seeing things: these names linked to terror organizations should go to Turkey, to Syria or Iraq and do whatever they want to do as long as they don’t carry out any acts on our soils,” he says.
Erdogan has accused Dutch and Belgian authorities of incompetence for not taking any action against Brussels airport bomber Ibrahim El Bakraoui, despite Turkish warnings that he was a “foreign terrorist fighter.”
Syrian experts shocked by damage inside Palmyra’s museum
Syrian antiquities experts express shock at the destruction the Islamic State wrought inside Palmyra’s museum, where scores of artifacts were smashed before troops drove the extremists out of the historic town.
Syria’s head of antiquities and museums, Maamoun Abdul-Karim, says that a team from his department is heading to Palmyra today to estimate the losses. Abdul-Karim says he will go himself once bomb squads finish removing explosives planted by the extremists before they lost the town.
Abdul-Karim says experts still need “many days” to determine the full extent of the damage.
Amr al-Azm, a former Syrian antiquities official who is now a professor at Shawnee State University in Ohio, says the world was already aware of the damage to the archaeological site, but was only now seeing the destruction wrought inside the museum.
“What was unfortunate really was the damage inside the museum, the many of the pieces that have not been saved, that they [Syrian officials] did not have time or the ability to move,” Al-Azm says. “It seems that a significant amount of damage was inflicted on them.”
In one positive outcome, state media reports that a lion statue dating back to the second century, previously thought to have been destroyed by IS, is found in a damaged but recoverable condition.
PM halts return of Palestinian attackers’ bodies
PM Netanyahu tells Defense Minister Ya’alon to stop the return of the bodies of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks on Israelis.
In a conversation held last night, the PM says the freeze will remain in place pending a new decision on the matter, Channel 2 says.
Israel has upheld a policy of returning the bodies to the Palestinian Authority, on condition that they are buried in a low-key funeral, to avoid further inflammation of the months-long violence.
US welcomes Islamic State defeat in Palmyra
The United States welcomes the victory of Syrian leader Bashar Assad’s Russian-backed forces over the Islamic State group in the historic city of Palmyra, despite concern over his brutal record.
“We do think that it’s a good thing that Daesh no longer controls it,” State Department spokesman John Kirby says, using his department’s preferred term for the jihadist group.
“That said, we’re also mindful, of course, that the best hope for Syria and the Syrian people is not an expansion of Bashar al-Assad’s ability to tyrannize the Syrian people.”
Jewish PAC endorses Hillary Clinton for president
A Jewish political action committee endorses Hillary Clinton for president and pledges to help get out the vote for her.
JACPAC cites Clinton’s work as secretary of state in trying to bring about Israeli-Arab peace and her embrace of pro-Israel positions, as well as her commitment to maintaining abortion rights.
“A Hillary Clinton presidency will be an important step to safeguarding JAC’s issues; the women’s vote will be critical to Hillary’s success and JAC will be working hard to get the vote out,” the group says in a statement.
JACPAC focuses on Israel, abortion rights, gun control and church-state separation. It has endorsed Democrats and moderate Republicans in congressional races.
Gunshots reported at US Capitol
The US Capitol Visitor Center has been locked down after reports of gunshots and an unspecified security threat, according to reports.
Here's the email that just went out to Hill staffers. Reports of shots fired in the Capitol Visitors Center. pic.twitter.com/VBjJKxJSQp
— Lachlan Markay (@lachlan) March 28, 2016
The story is breaking. There is no information on injuries or whether the possible shooter has been apprehended.
White House also on lockdown
The White House has also been put on lockdown because of the report of gunfire at the Capitol Visitors Center.
The situation is apparently contained to the Visitors Center but no further information is immediately available.
A Capitol Police spokesman does not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Local news reports ‘Capitol shooter is down’
MSNBC reports an ambulance has left the Capitol complex, leading to fears that there may be injuries related to the Capitol Hill security threat.
Local news source WUSA9 reports that “a shooter is down,” citing a Capitol police source.
— Fernando Pizarro (@FPizarro_DC) March 28, 2016
Police officer shot, shooter in custody at Capitol complex
The Associated Press reports on Twitter that a police officer was shot and is not seriously injured, citing Capitol police.
It also says the shooter is in custody.
Pictures broadcast by MSNBC show security forces with guns drawn on the Capitol grounds.
No comment on shooting from White House
White House spokesman Josh Earnest, in the middle of a daily press conference, learns about the Capitol shooting from reporters and says he cannot comment.
— POLITICO (@politico) March 28, 2016
NBC: Man shot after lifting gun, no police hurt
NBC News reports that the person who was shot was the apparent assailant.
The station reports that a man walked into the heavily secured Capitol Visitor Center with a gun, and a police officer shot him after thinking he pointed it.
The AP earlier reported that a police officer was shot and the shooter was in custody.
White House lockdown lifted, incident may have ended
The White House in no longer on lockdown, reporters at a briefing there report on Twitter.
Lockdown has been lifted here at the White House. Still a heightened security presence
— Josh Lederman (@joshledermanAP) March 28, 2016
According to MSNBC, tourists are being let out of the Capitol complex and police have been told no further assistance is needed, indicating the incident may have ended.
The station also reports that coincidentally, there was a “shelter in place” drill simulating a similar security threat at the Capitol several hours before the shooting.
‘No active threat to public,’ DC police say
The lockdown around the Capitol is apparently being lifted, after a potential gunman was shot and lightly injured.
“There has been an isolated incident at the US Capitol. There is no active threat to the public,” Washington police say on Twitter.
CNN reports that the White House was locked down over a separate incident in which an individual hopped a fence and tried to gain entrance to the building.
It says the two incidents were not linked.