Chile military plane missing with 38 on way to Antarctica
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‘We have less than 24 hours’: Gantz calls on Netanyahu to agree to unity demands

Blue and White leader says PM must give up on seeking parliamentary immunity in order to form unity government and prevent 3rd elections

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz gives a statement for media in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, November 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz gives a statement for media in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, November 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

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

Sa’ar takes swipe at Netanyahu, criticizes West Bank policies

Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar, who is challenging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the party leadership, berates the premier, during a visit to the Palestinian village of Khan al-Ahmar.

He criticizes the government led by Netanyahu for failing to raze the village amid international pressure, despite receiving court approval to do so.

“The future of Judea and Samaria will be determined with actions, not words,” says Sa’ar, using the biblical name for the West Bank. “Evacuate Khan al-Ahmar now.”

Sa’ar also discusses his prospective leadership bid, saying: “I am convinced that if I win and become the leader of Likud, I will lead it to a great victory.”

He also takes a swipe at Netanyahu, saying there is “no chance to form a government, even if we go to a third election.”

The Knesset is expected to dissolve on Wednesday night, after both Netanyahu and Blue and White’s Benny Gantz failed to form a government after the inconclusive September elections. A previous election in April also failed to yield a government.

Democrats poised to unveil 2 impeachment articles vs. Trump

House Democrats are poised to unveil two articles of impeachment against US President Donald Trump — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — with an announcement expected early Tuesday.

Democratic leaders say Trump put US elections and national security at risk when he asked Ukraine to investigate his rivals, including Joe Biden.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi declined during an event Monday evening to discuss the articles or the coming announcement. Details were shared by multiple people familiar with the discussions but unauthorized to discuss them and granted anonymity.

When asked if she has enough votes to impeach the Republican president, the Democratic leader said she would let House lawmakers vote their conscience.

“On an issue like this, we don’t count the votes. People will just make their voices known on it,” Pelosi said at The Wall Street Journal CEO Council. “I haven’t counted votes, nor will I.”

The outcome, though, appears increasingly set as the House prepares to vote, as it has only three times in history against a US president.

Trump spent part of the day tweeting against the impeachment proceedings, but did not immediately respond late Monday. The president and his allies have railed against the “absurd” proceedings.

AP

Death toll in New Zealand eruption rises to 6; 8 others presumed dead

The death toll from New Zealand’s White Island volcano eruption rises to six late Tuesday, after an injured person died in an Auckland hospital, police said.

“Police can confirm a further person has died following the eruption on Whakaari/White Island, bringing the official toll to six,” a police statement says.

Eight more people who remain missing are presumed dead after the volcano erupted Monday.

AFP

Chile military plane missing with 38 on way to Antarctica

Chile’s air force lost radio contact with a transport plane carrying 38 people on a flight Monday evening to the country’s base in Antarctica, and authorities indicated several hours later that they were not optimistic about the aircraft’s fate.

The military said earlier that it had declared an alert and activated search and rescue teams.

The C-130 Hercules carried 17 crew members and 21 passengers, including three civilians. The personnel were to check on a floating fuel supply line and other equipment at the Chilean base.

President Sebastián Piñera said via Twitter that he was with his defense and interior ministers at the air force headquarters, monitoring developments.

In a statement early Tuesday, the air force said the plane had not been heard from in more than seven hours and likely would have run out of fuel around 12:40 a.m.

AP

Australia denies snubbing Israelis at UN over Leifer case

A spokesman for the Australian embassy denies a report that its UN delegation refused to participate in an Israeli-organized event in Geneva to raise awareness of child sex abuse.

The Haaretz daily reported on Sunday that Australia had snubbed Israel in the backdrop of its frustration over the protracted legal proceedings to extradite alleged sex offender Malka Leifer, which have dragged on for over five years.

“The media report is incorrect. Australia’s delegation in Geneva did attend the Israeli-led event ‘Preventing Sexual Abuse of Children,” a spokesperson for the embassy tells The Times of Israel in a statement.

“Australia maintains a strong and determined interest in the extradition of Ms. Malka Leifer from Israel to Australia, to face allegations of child sex abuse in Australian courts.”

Jacob Magid

Ivanka, Mnuchin, to take part in Qatar forum

Ivanka Trump will take part in an international conference in Qatar this week, along with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Washington says on Tuesday.

Ivanka, the senior White House adviser and daughter of the US president, “will participate in the forum’s programming and meet with government and business leaders regarding key economic objectives,” a US Treasury statement says.

The annual Doha Forum conference, which draws an array of regional and global policymakers, will be held this year on December 14 and 15.

In 2017, Ivanka accompanied her father to Saudi Arabia on his first trip abroad as president. The kingdom and the United Arab Emirates at the time pledged $100 million to a women’s business fund she supported.

The US Treasury added that Mnuchin will discuss with counterparts “national security initiatives to combat terrorism and illicit finance.”

Washington and Doha have long been allies and Qatar is home to Washington’s largest Middle East military base.

AFP

Angry residents attack Lebanese municipality headquarters

Angry residents attack the municipality headquarters in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli on Tuesday, smashing windows and setting a room on fire, an outburst of violence that came after a house collapsed overnight in the area, killing two siblings.

A large military force is sent to the site to deal with the violence. It is not immediately clear what had caused the house to collapse. The two killed were a 19-year-old woman and her older brother, according to local media.

Tripoli has witnessed some of the largest protests since nationwide demonstrations broke out on October 17 against widespread corruption and mismanagement. The protesters have since transitioned to demand an end to the rule of the political elite that has run the country following the 1975-90 civil war.

Residents tell the local LBC TV station that the collapse was the result of negligence, saying that the municipality has repeatedly ignored calls by the owners to renovate the old house. Their claims could not be immediately confirmed.

AP

Israeli student hospitalized after attack in Paris metro

An Israeli student was assaulted on Monday night in the Paris metro, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

The report says there are suspicions the man was attacked after the perpetrators overheard him speaking on his phone in Hebrew.

He has been hospitalized.

Marie Frederiksson of Swedish pop duo Roxette dies at 61

Marie Fredriksson, the female half of the Swedish pop duo Roxette, has died at age 61, her management agency says Tuesday.

Frederiksson formed Roxette with Per Gessle in 1986. The two released their first album the same year and went on to achieve international success in the late 1980s and 1990s.

The Dimberg Jernberg agency says Frederiksson died Monday “of the consequences of a long illness.”

It “is with great sorrow that we must inform you that one of greatest and most-loved artists is gone,” the firm says.

Fredriksson became ill in 2002 and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She underwent radiation treatment and had continued health problems.

Frederiksson is survived by her husband, Mikael Bolyos, and their two children, Josefin and Oscar.

AP

Singer Marie Fredriksson of Swedish band Roxette performing during a concert in Oberursel near Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, June 12, 2011. (Boris Roessler / dpa / AFP / File)

11 jailed over 2017 Saint Petersburg metro bombing

A Russian court on Tuesday sentences 11 people to terms including life in prison after finding them guilty of a deadly bomb attack on the Saint Petersburg metro in 2017.

Abror Azimov, a 29-year-old from Kyrgyzstan, is sentenced by a military court in Russia’s second biggest city to life in prison for organizing and participating in a terrorist group.

Ten other people who are also from Central Asia are sentenced to between 19 and 28 years in prison.

All have denied the charges, and said they were tortured.

Shokhista Karimova, 48, pounds the glass of the courtroom cage and cries “let me go” after she is handed a 20-year term.

The bomb blast in April 2017 killed 15 people in the Saint Petersburg metro and wounded dozens more.

The alleged perpetrator, Akbarjon Djalilov, a 22-year-old from Kyrgyzstan, died in the attack.

AFP

Poll: Most Israelis think Gantz better suited for PM than Netanyahu

More Israelis believe Blue and White chief Benny Gantz is better suited to be prime minister than incumbent premier Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a new poll published Tuesday by the Walla news site.

According to the survey, 38 percent of Israelis think Gantz is best suited to be prime minister, while 37% say Netanyahu is better for the role. Sixteen percent said neither of them, while 9% did not know.

Netanyahu has consistently beat out Gantz in polls for suitability to be prime minister, though a survey from before April’s elections gave the Blue and White head a slight lead over the premier.

 

Democrats unveil 2 articles of impeachment against Trump

US House Democrats announce two articles of impeachment charging US President Donald Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The charges unveiled Tuesday stem from Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to announce investigations of his political rivals as he withheld aid to the country.

— AP

State prosecutors weighing charges of public servants in ‘serious corruption case’

State prosecutors inform suspects in a “serious corruption case” that they intend to indict them on a series of graft charges.

A statement from the Justice Ministry says prosecutors in the economic crimes division at the State Attorney’s Office are weighing charges of bribery, theft by a public servant, fraud, breach of trust, obstruction of justice, money laundering and tax offenses, among others.

“According to suspicions, public servants at a security body took bribes from companies that deal with selling equipment to security bodies and from their owners, in exchange for which they would advance,” the statement says.

Trump calls impeachment accusation ‘ridiculous’

US President Donald Trump responds on Twitter to the Democrats decision to file articles of impeachment against him.

NASA says core stage of next Moon rocket now ready

NASA has completed the giant rocket that will take US astronauts back to the Moon, the space agency’s head announces, pledging the mission would take place in 2024 despite being beset by delays.

The Space Launch System (SLS) is the tallest rocket ever built at a towering 212 feet (65 meters), the equivalent of a 20-story building. It is also the most powerful, designed to reach a record-breaking speed of Mach 23 before separating from its upper stage, the Orion crew capsule.

Standing before the orange behemoth at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine calls it a “very important day” for the space agency “when we get to announce core stage complete for in fact the SLS rocket.

“We are making significant progress towards achieving that Artemis 3 mission and getting our first woman, and next man to the south pole of the Moon in 2024.”

The Artemis 1 mission will likely take off by June 2020, according to the audit report. The first test will be without crew.

— AFP

Three Nigerian security staff executed in Islamist video

Jihadists in northeast Nigeria release a video showing the execution of two soldiers and a policeman.

The video, posted online late Monday by the Islamic State group (IS) propaganda agency Amaq, is made by a branch of Boko Haram that has sworn allegiance to IS known as the Islamic State Group in West Africa (ISWAP).

It shows three men in plain clothes kneeling in a field, introducing themselves as members of the Nigerian security forces before masked men in fatigues open fire on them shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest).

“We tell the Nigerian army that we will never spare those fighting against the people who follow Allah’s religion,” one of the executioners says in Hausa, a language widely spoken in the north of the country.

“We will attack your bases and confront you on your routes,” the militant adds, shortly before the execution.

— AFP

Israel to take part 2020 Expo in Dubai

Israel will take part in the prestigious Expo 2020 world fair in Dubai, the Foreign Ministry confirms after a visit of top ministry officials to the UAE.

“Israel’s participation in the exhibition reflects the rise in Israel’s status, not only internationally but also among the key state actors in our region.” Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz says in a statement. “Participation gives Israel an extraordinary opportunity to showcase its capabilities and achievements in the field of technology alongside vibrant Israeli culture.”

People visit the Dubai Expo 2020 stand at the Cityscape Global exhibition, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, September 11, 2017. (Kamran Jebreili/AP)

Expo 2020, which runs from October 20, 2020, to April 20, 2021, is set to attract some 25 million visitors to the glitzy emirate, famed for its luxury resorts and opulent shopping malls.

Israel has no diplomatic ties with the UAE, though relations between the countries have quietly warmed over shared concerns about Iranian aggression in the region. Senior Israeli ministers have openly visited the country and in 2018, Israel’s national anthem was played at a judo tournament in Abu Dhabi when its team member won a gold medal.

Bill to set new elections for March 2 filed in Knesset

A bill to set the next round of elections on Monday, March 2, 2020 has been filed by MKs in the Knesset.

The Knesset is expected to dissolve on Wednesday night, confirming the failure of both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to form a governing coalition following the inconclusive September elections.

If no lawmaker manages to get the support of at least 61 members of the 120-strong Knesset by Wednesday — and no candidate appears poised to do so — elections will be called for the third time in less than a year. The months-long political paralysis has continued since a previous round of voting in April failed to result in a majority government.

After a preliminary vote in the Knesset Arrangements Committee, the proposed election date must clear three Knesset plenary readings on Wednesday, if no candidate receives the necessary 61 recommendations to form a coalition.

— Raoul Wootliff

Israeli intel firm releases photo of suspected Iranian tunnel

In an apparent threat, an Israeli intelligence firm releases photographs of what it says is an Iranian tunnel being dug along the Syria-Iraq border to assist in the movement of weapons throughout the Middle East.

According to the firm, the private satellite image analysis company ImageSat International, the tunnel is likely being used to store Iranian missiles en route to Tehran’s proxies throughout the region.

In some cases in the past, suspected areas of Iranian military entrenchment have been identified by ImageSat International shortly before they were targeted in airstrikes attributed to Israel.

The tunnel, whose entrance can be seen in satellite images, is located on a suspected Iranian military base in Syria’s Boukamal region, near the Iraqi border, which has been the site of several Israeli airstrikes in the past year, including some in the past few days, according to Syrian media.

Satellite images showing an alleged Iranian tunnel on a military base near the border crossing in Syria’s Boukamal region, near the Iraqi border, on December 10, 2019. (ImageSat International)

The private intelligence firm says the tunnel appears to have been built in response to these airstrikes, as a means to protect high-quality munitions from Israeli attacks.

“Currently, the estimated tunnel’s width is 4-5 meters and its length is unknown. Due to the area’s rigid flat terrain, it is unlikely that the tunnel will be extended significantly,” according to ImageSat.

The Boukamal region in Syria is seen as critical to Tehran’s effort to establish a land corridor from Iran, through Iraq and Syria, and out to the Mediterranean Sea. Israel has vowed to prevent Iran from establishing a military presence in Syria.

— Judah Ari Gross

Rabbi films threats against him at Long Island Costco, aggressor arrested

A rabbi who was harassed and threatened with physical violence at a suburban New York Costco recorded the encounter, leading to the arrest of the aggressor.

In a Facebook post, Rabbi Avrum Fri writes that the man said to him in the restroom of the store in Lawrence, Long Island, “[expletive] Jew, the Nazis will finish you off.”

Fri says he followed the man out of the bathroom and told him to make the comment to his face while the rabbi was recording with his cellphone.

The man — identified as Justin Pichizaca, 20, of Queens — twice made a move toward Fri to hit him and said “Record all you want because a Nazi is going to f***ing kill you.”

Pichizaca also threatened another Jewish customer, saying “I’m going out to get my gun and will come back to shoot you up.”

Fri says no one interceded during the extended rant.

The police officer who responded to Fri’s call said there was no case since once Fri followed Pichizaca out of the bathroom, he “became the aggressor.” A second officer said his actions were not smart since Pichizaca “clearly” is mentally ill.

Fri was later called to the police station, where the officers apologized. Pichizaca was arrested later that day.

— JTA

Knesset committee to open debate on election bill Wednesday morning

The Knesset Arrangements Committee will gather tomorrow at 9.30 a.m. to being a day of deliberations on a bill to dissolve parliament and set new elections for March 2, 2010.

After a preliminary vote in the committee, the bill, if it passes, will face three plenary votes and two further committee debates throughout the day in order to pass into law by the midnight deadline.

World’s youngest PM takes office in Finland

Finland’s Sanna Marin, 34, is officially appointed as the country’s prime minister, becoming the world’s youngest sitting head of government.

The former transport minister takes the helm of a coalition of five parties that will all be led by women, once the prime minister takes over as head of her Social Democratic party next year. All but one of the female coalition leaders are aged under 35.

Sanna Marin, after she won the SDP’s prime minister candidate vote against Antti Lindtman, in Helsinki, Finland, December 8, 2019. (Vesa Moilanen/Lehtikuva via AP)

Marin became Finland’s third female prime minister after her nomination was passed in parliament by 99 votes to 70 Tuesday and President Sauli Niinisto officially appointed the new center-left cabinet.

— AFP

Pardon for jailed tycoon Nochi Dankner delayed by new police probe

An expected presidential pardon for one of Israel’s most prominent businessmen, now serving a three-year sentence for stock manipulation, is being delayed because he is a suspect in a new police investigation.

The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court lifted a gag order today on the new investigation into Nochi Dankner, the former controlling shareholder of IDB Holding Corp.

However, the court only allowed reporting on the existence of the new police probe, not on the details of the case.

Nochi Dankner seen at the Supreme court in Jeruslaem on April 23, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Once one of the wealthiest people in Israel, Dankner, 65, was convicted in 2016 of securities fraud over his efforts to manipulate the stock price of his company as it struggled to remain financially solvent in 2012. He appealed his two-year sentence to the Supreme Court, but in an August 2018 decision the higher court added a year to the sentence. Justice David Mintz said the mogul’s behavior had hurt public confidence in the securities market and merited a more severe punishment.

Gantz calls on Netanyahu to commit to fight charges in court, form unity government

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz releases a video with a final plea to Benjamin Netanyahu to form a unity government before tomorrow’s deadline.

“Citizens of Israel, there are little more than 24 hours left to prevent costly and unnecessary elections,” Gantz says in a video published on his social media outlets.

“I want you to know that I and my friends in Blue and White are making every effort to find a way to form a government without giving up on the basic principles on which we entered politics,” he says.

In a direct call to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Gantz says, “As you promised before the previous election, do not hide behind parliamentary immunity, and go to defend your innocence in court. It is important for me to say — you have the full right to protect yourself but you must not make the Knesset a safe haven for criminals.

Do this so that we can find a solution and form a government. Over half of Israel voted for Blue and White and for Likud, and we have the opportunity and responsibility to form a good unity government in Israel,” he says.

— Raoul Wootliff

Netanyahu responds to Gantz: ‘Stop spreading spin’

Responding to Gantz’s call for Netanyahu to accept his unity government demands, Netanyahu writes on Twitter: “Benny Gantz, I urge you to stop spreading spin.”

“After 80 days, it is time that for one day, for the benefit of the citizens of the State of Israel, we sit down and seriously discuss the establishment of a broad unity government. It’s not too late yet,” he writes.

— Raoul Wootliff

New poll shows Blue and White opening gap on Likud

A day before new elections are likely called, a new poll on Channel 13 news shows that if they were held today, the Blue and White party would jump from its current 33 Knesset seats to 37 while the Likud would gain just one extra seat, going from 32 to 33.

The other parties would each receive the following seats:

Joint List – 13
Yisrael Beytenu – 8
United Torah Judaism – 7
Shas – 6
New Right – 6
Labor – 5
Democratic Camp – 5

According to the poll, the Jewish Home-National Union party would fail to pass the electoral threshold.

In total, the bloc of right-wing and religious parties would drop from 55 to 52 seats while the center-left, left-wing and Arab parties would go from 57 to 60, just one short of a majority in the parliament.

— Raoul Wootliff

Former Trump campaign manager Lewandowski in Israel to meet with Netanyahu — report

Two former campaign aides for US President Donald Trump, including campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, are reportedly visiting Israel this week to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Jewish Insider news website reports that Lewandowski and David Bossie, who served Trump as a deputy campaign manager are being considered to join Netanyahu’s campaign for a likely national election in March, Israel’s third vote in less than a year.

Corey Lewandowski, then-campaign manager for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, speaking with the media in Palm Beach, Florida, March 10, 2016. (AFP/Getty Images North America/Joe Raedle)

Netanyahu is said to be revamping his strategy team.

Lewandowski and Bossie did not comment on the visit to Jewish Insider.

Also according to Jewish Insider, Republican pollster John McLaughlin, who was Netanyahu’s campaign pollster in this year’s two elections, will not return for a third.

McLaughlin is currently working for the Trump re-election campaign.

— JTA

Heavy gunfire reported in Jersey City neighborhood

Heavy gunfire is being reported in a Jersey City neighborhood.

SWAT teams are responding to the scene and police have blocked off the major thoroughfare. Loud volleys of gunfire could be heard at regular intervals but subsided around 2 p.m. in the city, which is just across the Hudson River from Manhattan.

The area has a Catholic school, a few convenience stories, a kosher supermarket and a hair stylist. Phones rang unanswered at several nearby businesses. The Catholic parish, Sacred Heart, has closed, and no one answered at its associated school.

Andy Patel works at a liquor store about three blocks away from the site of the shooting site and says there has been consistent gunfire fire for about an hour.

“I can hear the gunshots. It’s like firecrackers going off. They were shooting like crazy about an hour ago. Then it stopped for like 20 or 30 minutes. The cops were clearing everyone off the streets,” says Patel.

— AP

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Chile military plane missing with 38 on way to Antarctica

Chile’s air force lost radio contact with a transport plane carrying 38 people on a flight Monday evening to the country’s base in Antarctica, and authorities indicated several hours later that they were not optimistic about the aircraft’s fate.

The military said earlier that it had declared an alert and activated search and rescue teams.

The C-130 Hercules carried 17 crew members and 21 passengers, including three civilians. The personnel were to check on a floating fuel supply line and other equipment at the Chilean base.

President Sebastián Piñera said via Twitter that he was with his defense and interior ministers at the air force headquarters, monitoring developments.

In a statement early Tuesday, the air force said the plane had not been heard from in more than seven hours and likely would have run out of fuel around 12:40 a.m.

AP