The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they unfolded.
Netanyahu puts Gaza terror groups on notice after IED attack
After an IED attack on an IDF patrol along the Gaza border over the weekend, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel will not accept violation of its sovereignty by terror groups in the Strip.
“Every act of aggression by terrorist elements is met with a firm and powerful response from our side,” Netanyahu says at a dedication ceremony of a new emergency room at Ashkelon’s Barzilai Hospital.
He says Israel won’t tolerate sporadic rocket fire from Gaza or the planting of IEDs along the border, such as the one Saturday that wounded four soldiers, including two seriously.
“Whoever harms us will be hurt himself. Those who don’t act to calm the situation but choose to fan the flames will bear responsibility,” he warns.
Lawyers for Hariri assassination suspect calls for acquittal
LEIDSCHENDAM, Netherlands — Lawyers for one of four alleged Hezbollah members accused of involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri are calling on judges at a UN-backed tribunal to acquit him, saying prosecutors have not presented enough evidence to convict him.
Tuesday’s call comes after prosecutors wrapped up their case after four years, but before defense attorneys presented any evidence. Lawyers for the three other suspects are not calling for acquittals at this stage of the trial.
None of the four suspects is in custody and the trial at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon is progressing in their absence. They are accused of involvement in the February 14, 2005, truck bombing in Beirut that killed Hariri and 21 others. They all deny the charges.
Egypt adds detained Islamist politician to terror list
CAIRO — An Egyptian court adds a detained Islamist politician to a list of wanted terrorists over his alleged links to the country’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group.
The South Cairo Criminal Court adds Abdel-Monaem Abul Fetouh, 66, and 15 others to the list, which includes deposed president Mohamed Morsi, the Brotherhood’s spiritual guide, Mohammed Badie, and other group leaders.
Abul Fetouh was a longtime Brotherhood member, but quit the group in 2011 to run for president in the 2012 election won by Morsi.
Abul Fetouh was arrested earlier this month, shortly after his return from a trip to London.
Emergency crews respond to gas explosion at Jerusalem apartment bulding
Police say the explosion on Dan Street in Jerusalem was caused by a gas leak.
Several apartments were damaged by the blast, as was as the underground parking lot of the building, where the explosion apparently took place.
Two people were taken to Shaare Zedek Hospital with minor injuries, Magen Davd Adom paramedics say.
Police have opened an investigation into the incident, they say in a statement.
— Raoul Wootliff
Israeli kidnapped in Nigeria is released
A gag order is lifted on the kidnapping of an Israeli man in Nigeria on Friday.
The 62-year-old, who works for a company active in the country, was kidnapped on the outskirts of the capital of Abuja by armed men seeking a ransom payment for his release.
During the kidnapping, an exchange of gunfire ensued and the Israelis personal driver was killed.
He was released after negotiations between the CEO of the company where he works, Nigerian security forces and the kidnappers.
The Foreign Ministry says it and the Israeli ambassador in Abuja were involved in securing his release.
There is no word on whether a ransom payment was made for the Israeli man to be freed.
Syrian rebel leader accuses regime, allies of committing ‘a new Holocaust’
BEIRUT — A top Syrian rebel leader says government forces along with Iran and Russia are committing a new “Holocaust” in rebel-held suburbs of the capital Damascus.
Mohammed Alloush of the Army of Islam tells The Associated Press Tuesday that the United Nations is also to blame “because of its bankruptcy and lies about protecting security and peace in the world.”
Alloush’s comments come after opposition activists and paramedics said that more than 100 people have been killed since Monday in the worst daily death toll in the eastern suburbs, also known as eastern Ghouta, in three years.
Alloush, whose militant group is the strongest in eastern Ghouta, describes the government and its backers Russia and Iran as a “Satanic alliance” that is “unprecedented since World War II.”
Alloush adds that “a new Holocaust is being committed by the dirtiest regime on earth.”
Chief justice to testify on alleged offer to judge from Netanyahu ally — report
Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut will provide testimony to police on an alleged illicit offer a Netanyahu associate made to a judge, Hadashot TV news reports.
According to a Haaretz report, Hila Gerstel told Hayut she had been offered the post of attorney general in 2015 by former Netanyahu spokesman Nir Hefetz in exchange for stopping an investigation of the prime minister’s wife Sara Netanyahu. Gerstel and Hayut, who has since been appointed president of the Supreme Court, are reported to be close friends.
Gerstel, now retired, is also expected to provide testimony to police.
Hefetz is currently being held by police over his suspected involvement in so-called Case 4000, which involves suspicions Netanyahu made policies that would financially benefit Bezeq telecommunications Shaul Elovitch, in exchange for favorable coverage form his Walla news site.
Three hospitalized with minor injuries from Jerusalem gas explosion
Three people injured in a gas leak explosion at a Jerusalem residential complex have been hospitalized, a spokeswoman for Hadassah Hospital Ein Karem says.
The hospital says the three — a 62-year-old woman and a couple in their 70s — suffered minor injuries as a result of the explosion.
Critically wounded man rescued from rubble of Jerusalem gas explosion
Emergency crews rescue a man trapped beneath the rubble from a gas explosion at a Jerusalem residential complex.
Channel 10 reports the man is unconscious and in critical condition.
— חדשות עשר (@news10) February 20, 2018
Abbas to unveil new peace plan during Security Council speech
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will unveil a new peace plan during his speech to the United Nations Security Council later today, the official Wafa news agency reports PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki as telling Voice of Palestine radio.
Malki says Abbas will call for halting Israeli settlement construction, rescinding Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and for an international conference that’ll formulate a basis for negotiations based on a two-state solution with a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem.
He says Abbas’ peace plan will reflect the content of his recent speeches and meetings with world leaders. Since Trump’s December 6 declaration, Abbas has said the US is no longer an honest broker and claimed Israel is a European colonial state with no basis in Judaism.
Man critically wounded in Jerusalem gas explosion dies
A man critically wounded in a gas explosion at a Jerusalem residential complex in the neighborhood of Baka is pronounced dead.
His death comes shortly after reports said he was rescued in critical condition from the rubble of the building’s collapsed parking lot.
Moscow says ‘dozens’ of Russians were injured in US strikes in Syria
MOSCOW — Russia says dozens of Russian citizens were injured this month in Syria but denies any responsibility for their activities, amid mounting reports of casualties among Russian mercenaries.
The US coalition on February 7 struck a formation attacking a position of the Syrian Democratic Force east of the Euphrates river in eastern Syria, killing about 100 people.
Many Russian mercenaries were reported killed in the strike, according to their relatives and paramilitary groups, as well as political organizations that published information about the casualties.
The Russian foreign ministry, which previously said that five Russian citizens were likely killed, on Tuesday releases a statement that “there are also several dozen of injured” in the attack.
It says “there are Russian citizens in Syria who went there with various goals” and “it is not up to the foreign ministry to evaluate the legality of their decisions.”
The ministry says it had helped the injured Russians return home where they were “receiving medical care in various medical institutions.”
It denies that the incident involved any Russian military.
France arrests 3 suspects linked to Barcelona attacks
MADRID — Three people were arrested in France on Tuesday for alleged links to a suspect in last year’s deadly terror attacks in Barcelona and a nearby seaside resort, the Spanish interior ministry says Tuesday.
The arrests were made during a joint operation with French and Spanish police in the south and southwest of France, the ministry says in a statement.
Ignoring Turkish threats, pro-regime fighters enter Syrian Kurdish enclave
BEIRUT — Pro-government Syrian fighters start entering the northern Kurdish enclave of Afrin where Turkish troops have been on the offensive for a month.
Syrian state TV shows about 20 vehicles with heavy machine guns mounted on them entering Afrin from the nearby village of Nubul.
Scores of gunmen are on the vehicles waving Syrian flags and chanting pro-government slogans.
There is no immediate comment about the deployment from Kurdish officials.
Tuesday’s deployment comes a day after Turkey warned the Syrian government against entering the Kurdish-controlled enclave where a major Turkish military offensive is underway, saying it would hit back at the troops if their goal is to protect the Kurdish fighters.
The deployment comes hours after Turkish media reported that Turkish troops and allied Syrian opposition forces have linked a swathe of land in the Afrin enclave to the Turkish-held Syrian city of Azaz.
Liberman visits IDF troops wounded in Gaza IED attack
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman visits IDF soldiers injured over the weekend in an IED attack on the Gaza border.
“The IDF will settle the score with those who placed the explosive and their dispatchers. We are proud of you and will give you every assistance and support,” Liberman tells the wounded troops at Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center.
Four soldiers were injured by the IED, including two critically, which was hidden in a flag tied to the border fence.
Kushner, Greenblatt at Security Council for Abbas speech
US President Donald Trump’s special adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is attendance for PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s speech to the UN Security Council.
Kushner is in charge of the Israeli-Palestinian portfolio in the Trump administration.
Also in attendance is Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s special envoy for the peace process.
British envoy not expecting anything specific out of Security Council meeting
British Ambassador to the UN Matthew Rycroft says he is not expecting “anything specific” to come out of the UN Security Council meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Speaking to reporters, he says the UK “remains committed to a two-state solution” and is looking forward to see the peace plan being drafted by the US.
He devotes most of his time to addressing the Syrian regime bombing of Eastern Ghouta, calling it “a zone of death and destruction” and urging the council to adopt a resolution to bring relief to the Syrian rebel area.
— Joshua Davidovich
UN Security Council begins its session on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
The UN Security Council begins its session on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The meeting is chaired by Mansour Ayyad Al-Otaibi, the ambassador the UN from Kuwait, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council.
Abbas arrives to address the Security Council members.
UN chief: Global support for two-state solution ‘could be eroding’
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres addresses the UN Security Council, saying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has gone on for “far too long.”
Guterres calls for the conflict to be solved with a two-state solution, while warning “the global consensus for a two-state solution could be eroding.”
He says “obstacles on the ground” are increasingly preventing the realization of the two-state solution.
UN envoy warns of ‘perpetual reality of permanent occupation’ without peace deal
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov addresses the UN Security Council on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Mladenov warns of a “perpetual reality of permanent occupation” in the absence of a two-state deal.
He says there is a need for “meaningful” negotiations on all final status issues, including Jerusalem’s status. He says a “sustainable peace” can only be achieved by a two-state solution reached through negotiations.
Mladenov calls for continued support for Palestinian refugees and, in a veiled criticism of the US, chides UN member states that have cut their contributions.
Abbas says Palestinians ‘are the descendants of Canaanites’
PA President Mahmoud Abbas tells the UN Security Council “we are the descendants of the Canaanites that lived in the land 5,000 years ago and continued to live there to this day.”
He slams the UK’s Balfour Declaration and says the British government bears responsibility for its “catastrophic consequences.”
Abbas claims Palestinians never rejected negotiations with Israel
Abbas says the Palestinians have long been commited to negotiations, name-checking a long list of conferences and meetings held over the past two decades to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Abbas says Palestinians have never rejected negotiations, blaming Israel for failed rounds of peace talks.
Abbas: Trump ‘punishing’ Palestinian refugees with UNRWA cuts
Abbas says Trump is “punishing” Palestinian refugees with cuts to UNRWA, the UN’s refugee agency for Palestinian refugees.
He also criticizes the Trump administration for its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and failure to fully endorse a two-state solution.
Rejecting US role, Abbas calls for multilateral ‘mechanism’ for peace talks
Abbas calls for a multilateral “mechanism” to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal in a rejection of the US’ traditional role as the broker of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
He says this is not a rejection of negotiations or a call for violence.
Israeli envoy to Abbas: You’re the problem, not the solution
Israeli envoy to the UN Danny Danon blames Abbas for the absence of an Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
“Mr. Abbas, you have made it clear with your words and your actions, you are no longer part of the solution. You are the problem,” Danon says.
He attacks Abbas for speaking differently to Palestinian and international audiences. He takes aim at Abbas for claiming Israel is a European colonial state and that Jews have no claim to the Temple Mount.
“You inspire a culture of hate in Palestinian society,” he says.
Israeli envoy says Palestinians ‘choose conflict over coexistence’
Israel’s ambassador to the UN says the Palestinians should take after Egyptian and Jordanian leaders who reached peace deals with Israel.
“But the Palestinian leadership continues to choose conflict over coexistence,” Danny Danon says.
Danon criticizes the Palestinians for missing numerous opportunities to seal a peace deal, such as the Camp David talks and prime minister Ehud Olmert’s peace offer.
Israeli envoy: ‘When we extend a hand, Abbas extends a fist’
US Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon criticizes Abbas for not positively responding to Israeli overtures to restart peace talks.
“When we extend a hand, Abbas extends a fist,” he says.
He criticizes Abbas for seeking to reconcile with the Palestinian terror group Hamas.
Haley slams UN for ‘disproportionate focus’ on Israeli-Palestinian conflict
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley criticizes the Security Council for its “disproportionate focus” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“It is as if saying the same things repeatedly without the necessary compromises and hard work will achieve anything,” she says.
Haley slams the UN for not instead focusing on other Middle East conflicts, such as in Yemen and Syria.
Nikki Haley: UN using Israel as a ‘scapegoat’ for regional problems
Nikki Haley slams UN member states for “using the most democratic country in the Middle East as a scapegoat for the region’s problems.”
She says Israelis have suffered due to the conflict, with many dying in stabbings, shootings, and suicide bombings.
She says Palestinians are also suffering, with those in Gaza having to live under Hamas’ rule.
Nikki Haley to Erekat: ‘I will not shut up’
Nikki Haley responds to top Palestinian negotiator Saab Erekat’s remark she should “shut up.”
“I will not shut up. Rather, I will respectfully speak some hard truths,” she says.
Haley says the Palestinians must “put aside” their anger over the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
She says the US is ready to broker peace talks immediately, noting the presence of negotiators Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt behind her.
But, she says: “We will not chase after you. The choice [Abbas] is yours.”
Liberman to Abbas: ‘We all know who you are’
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman attacks Abbas over his Security Council speech.
“Dr. Abbas and Mr. Abu Mazen, we all know who you are,” tweets Liberman, using Abbas’ nickname. “One hand pays salaries to terrorists who harm Israelis and the other requests recognition from the UN.”
Bennett on Abbas speech: ‘A nation that invents its past has no future’
Education Minister Naftali Bennett blasts Abbas for his claim the Palestinians are the descendants of Canaanites and have been in the Land of Israel for over 5,00 years.
“A nation that invents its past has no future,” tweets Bennett.
“The ancestors of the Palestinians maybe existed 5,000 years ago, but south of here in the Arabian Peninsula. I recommend to [Abbas] to focus not on constructing an imaginary past but rather creating a practical future,” he adds.
Lapid says Abbas speech a ‘crude lie’
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid calls Abbas’ speech to the Security Council a “crude lie” and criticizes the UN’s policy of granting the descendants of Palestinian refugees refugee status.
“Abu Mazen’s remarks at the UN on the the issue of refugees are a crude lie,” tweets Lapid, using Abbas’ nickname. “The world can’t allow the Palestinians to be the only nation in the world in which refugee status is inherited.”
“There aren’t millions of Palestinian refugees. There never were. Israel will never agree to the right of return,” he adds.
Polish opposition wants to amend disputed Holocaust bill
WARSAW, Poland — The main Polish opposition party on Tuesday tables an amendment to the government’s controversial Holocaust bill, which was meant to defend Warsaw’s image abroad but instead stoked tensions with Israel, Ukraine, and the US.
However, the liberal Civic Platform (PO) party’s proposal has no chance of being adopted since the governing right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party controls both houses of parliament.
“The political crisis triggered by clumsy and disastrous diplomacy, by thoughtless remarks, has brought us to a point where we politicians are forced to react,” PO leader Grzegorz Schetyna tells reporters.
“We are proposing a draft amendment that should correct the mistakes.”
Poland’s opposition suggests replacing the bill’s controversial passage with penalties against “anyone who, publicly and contrary to the facts, attributes to the Polish state responsibility or co-responsibility for the German Third Reich’s creation of concentration and death camps, as well as for the genocide that took place there, or who minimizes to a flagrant degree the responsibility of the real authors of these crimes by using the terms ‘Polish death camps’ and ‘Polish concentration camps.'”
The PO also suggests deleting a passage concerning crimes committed against Poles by Ukrainians, which according to Kiev presents Ukrainians as nothing but “nationalist criminals” and “Third Reich collaborators.”
State asks High Court for 3 month delay to illegal outpost demolition
The state calls on the High Court to delay its sanctioned demolition of the illegal Netiv Ha’avot outpost by three months in a petition submitted Tuesday on behalf of the residents.
Presented 14 days ahead of the slated razing, the purpose of the appeal is to provide time for the construction of a caravan community that the government approved last month for the 15 families on an adjacent hilltop.
In addition, the delay would allow for the advancement of another plan that would grant post-facto building permits to seven of the 15 homes slated for demolition, on the grounds that they sit only marginally on land that does not belong to the state.
If adopted, the plan would see the “problematic parts” of those seven homes sawed off while the rest of the structures would be allowed to remain standing. This would mean that only eight homes would require complete demolition by security forces.
— Jacob Magid
White House: ‘Old talking points’ won’t lead to Palestinian state
A White House spokesman reacts to PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ speech to the UN Security council.
“We appreciated the opportunity to listen to his speech. We were hoping to hear some new and constructive ideas, and the recognition that Jerusalem is holy to Jews in addition to Muslims and Christians is a step in the right direction, but as Ambassador Haley warned, setting forth old talking points and undeveloped concepts for each of the core issues will not achieve peace,” says Josh Raffel.
“We are trying to do the opposite and will continue working on our plan, which is designed to benefit both the Israeli and Palestinian people. We will present it when it is done and the time is right,” he adds.
Report: Netanyahu aide in ‘advanced talks’ to turn state’s witness
A longtime aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhau is in “advanced talks” to turn state’s witness in the corruption investigation known as Case 4000, Hadashot TV news reports.
A reporter at the network tweets Filber is expected to sign the deal tonight.
Filber is a suspect in Case 4000, which involves suspicions Bezeq owner Shaul Elovitch gave Netanyahu and his family positive coverage at his Walla news site in exchange for the advancement of policies benefiting the telecommunications giant.
Reports say Netanyahu and his wife Sara are expected to be questioned in the investigation. Neither has been named as a suspect and they deny wrongdoing.
Netanyahu dismisses flood of allegations as ‘complete chaos’
Netanyahu rejects the latest corruption allegations against him, calling the recent flood of media reports on suspected wrongdoing “complete chaos.”
“What has been happening in the last two days is simply complete chaos. A scandal. [They] are bringing two imaginary and false claims as part of the campaign of persecution against me and my family that has been going on for years,” Netanyahu says in a video statement.
Addressing Case 4000, he says every decision regarding Bezeq, Israel’s largest telecommunications company, was approved by professional committees and subject to judicial oversight. “There is no wild west here,” he says.
Netanyahu also denies any involvement in his former spokesman Nir Hefetz’s offer to a judge that she would be appointed attorney general if she halted an investigation involving Sara Netanyahu.
Netanyahu: Abbas ‘continues to run away from peace’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismisses PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ speech to the UN Security Council calling for a “multilateral international mechanism” to facilitate Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
“Abbas didn’t say anything new. He continues to run away from peace and continues to pay terrorists and their families $347 million [each year],” says Netanyahu.
Egypt to temporarily open Gaza border Wednesday
EL-ARISH, Egypt — Egyptian officials say the country will open its border with the Gaza Strip amid a military campaign against Islamic insurgents in restive northern Sinai Peninsula.
The two officials say Tuesday the Rafah crossing point will operate starting Wednesday for four days on a humanitarian basis. Both speak on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to brief the media.
The Palestinian embassy in Cairo confirms the opening of Gaza’s main gateway to the outside world.
Thousands of Gaza residents are on travel lists — most of them medical patients, students, and holders of residency permits of other countries. Only a few thousand will make it out in the time allotted.
Egypt has kept Rafah largely sealed off since 2013, after the ouster of Egypt’s elected Islamist president Mohammed Morsi.
Police release photo of Polish embassy vandalism suspect
Police release a photo of a man suspected of vandalizing the Polish embassy in Israel.
Police ask for the public’s assistance if they recognize the man.
Police opened an investigation Sunday after swastikas and anti-Polish graffiti was found scrawled on the embassy. The vandalism comes amid a row between Israel and Poland over Polish legislation outlawing blaming the Polish nation for the crimes of the Holocaust.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) February 20, 2018
Parts of Warsaw Ghetto wall to become historic monuments
WARSAW, Poland — Two sections of the wall that isolated the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II should be added to a list of historical monuments, a regional conservation official in Poland says Tuesday.
A proposal to list the red brick wall still standing at 53 Sienna Street says the barrier should be protected as a witness to history and preserved for future generations.
It says monument status would give legal protection to a “unique historical memento, priceless to the Jewish and the Polish nation.”
The wall was built in 1940, when the Nazi Germans occupying Poland closed the area of Warsaw they called the “Jewish district.” It was four meters (13 feet) high, including one meter of barbed wire on top.
Most of the ghetto’s 450,000 residents died of hunger and disease there, or in the gas chambers of the Treblinka death camp.
The Germans destroyed the ghetto and most of the wall in 1943. Hundreds of residents resisted, but the Ghetto Uprising was crushed in May 1943 and almost all its fighters were killed.
Erdogan: Pro-regime forces pushed back in Syrian Kurdish enclave
BEIRUT — Turkey’s president says Turkish artillery fire has pushed back a convoy of pro-Syrian government forces from an enclave in northern Syria.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggests Tuesday that the Shite fighters who entered the enclave of Afrin in a convoy of a dozen vehicles were acting alone. He warns that Turkey would not allow “such [a] wrongful step” in the future, adding that those who do “would pay a high price.”
Speaking during a joint news conference with his Macedonian counterpart, Erdogan says that the convoy of a dozen vehicles “were forced to turn back” following the shelling.
“That file has been closed for now,” he says.