Compromise deal reached, PM to speak at Independence Day event — report
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Abbas says won’t return to Gaza unless Hamas cedes control

PA president says Ramallah will ‘not be responsible for what goes on’ in Strip if ruling terror group does not cede weapons

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gestures with his hand during a joint press conference with the visiting Bulgarian president at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah on March 22, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gestures with his hand during a joint press conference with the visiting Bulgarian president at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah on March 22, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they unfolded.

Suspected Palestinian stabber shot at West Bank gas station

A Palestinian man suspected of trying to stab someone at a West Bank gas station was shot by an armed civilian bystander this afternoon, police say.

According to police, the suspect “had an object in his hand and tried to stab a man” who was at the gas station, near the Mishur Adumim industrial area outside the Maale Adumim settlement.

An armed civilian opened fire at the suspect and “neutralized him,” the police say.

The man’s condition was not immediately known.

There were no Israeli injuries, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service.

— Judah Ari Gross

Syrian rescuers, medics say gas attack near capital kills 40

Syrian opposition activists and rescuers said Sunday that a poison gas attack on a rebel-held town near the capital has killed at least 40 people, allegations denied by the Syrian government.

The alleged attack in the town of Douma occurred late last night amid a resumed offensive by Syrian government forces after the collapse of a truce with the Army of Islam rebel group.

The reports could not be independently verified.

First responders said they found families suffocated in their homes and shelters, with foam on their mouths. The opposition-linked Syrian Civil Defense were able to document 42 fatalities but were impeded from searching further by strong odors that gave their rescuers difficulties breathing, said Siraj Mahmoud, a spokesman for the group, which is known as the White Helmets.

— AP

Liberman asks AG to probe ‘subversive’ B’Tselem for urging soldiers to refuse orders in Gaza

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman says he has asked Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to investigate a left-wing group that called on Israeli soldiers to refuse orders to open fire on protesters during clashes along the Gaza border.

In a tweet, Liberman urges the state to “probe the heads of B’Tselem for incitement to disobedience after their call for soldiers to refuse orders in defending the border.”

“This subversive and impermanent organization, together with those who hate Israel and the international media who are trying to delegitimize our soldiers who are acting in a legal and moral manner in a complicated situation,” he says. “We will put an end to this.”

Pope Francis condemns use of chemical weapons in Syria

Pope Francis on Sunday condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria after a suspected attack in an opposition holdout in Eastern Ghouta killed dozens of people.

“Terrible news comes to us from Syria with dozens of victims, many of them women and children … so many people are struck by the effects of the chemical substances in the bombs,” the pope tells thousands of people gathered in St Peter’s Square.


Police: Bystander shot Palestinian suspect armed with screwdriver

An initial police investigation finds that a suspect tried to stab an Israeli man with a screwdriver outside a gas station in the West Bank’s Mishur Adumim industrial area, near the Ma’ale Adumim settlement.

A civilian who was driving by saw the suspect running after the man with the weapon in his hand and opened fire, police say.

According to medical officials, the suspect was shot in the head and is in critical condition.

He was taken to Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus.

No Israeli injuries have been reported.

— Judah Ari Gross

Netanyahu to attend Independence Day ceremony amid outcry

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly decided to attend the annual torch-lighting ceremony marking the start of Israel’s 70th Independence Day later this month.

The decision is reported in |Hebrew-language media as a “compromise” between the prime minister and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who has insisted that Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin not take part in the state ceremony, which is run by the Knesset.

Netanyahu will light a torch at the event, but it remains unclear whether he will also deliver a speech.

B’Tselem hits back at Liberman, says using live fire during protests illegal

B’Tselem defends its controversial call urging Israeli soldiers to refuse orders to shoot Palestinian protesters along the Gaza border, saying the use of live fire to disperse demonstrators is illegal under Israeli law.

In a statement, the left-wing human rights group says the order violates Section 110 of Israel’s penal code, and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s efforts to have the group investigated are without merit.

“The defense minister is the one inciting to break the law, and it’s good that the attorney general will now have the opportunity to officially determine this,” B’Tselem says.

Israeli tourist killed in Bolivia in ATV crash

An Israeli man was killed in the Bolivian capital of La Paz over the weekend when the ATV he was riding in overturned, the Foreign Ministry says in a statement.

The family of the 23-year-old has been informed.

The Israeli embassy in Peru is working with local authorities to return the body to Israel for burial.

German police rule out ‘political motive’ in van attack

German police say they do not see an extremist motive behind a ramming attack with a van that claimed two lives and placed the driver’s mental health issues in the foreground.

There are “no indications of a political motive,” says Hajo Kuhlisch, chief of police in western city Muenster where the attack took place.

Rather, “the motive and origins (of the crime) lie within the perpetrator himself,” he added.

Far-right opponents of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s refugee policy suggested in the immediate aftermath of the attack it might be an Islamist act of terror, while some media reported the killer had links to right-wing extremist organizations.

So far the 48-year-old German who killed two and injured 20 — some seriously — with a van before shooting himself has been identified only as Jens R.

Prosecutors said he had faced allegations of threats, property damage and fraud in 2015 and 2016, all of which were dropped.


State seeks extension from High Court for asylum seeker hearing

The state has reportedly filed a request to the High Court of Justice seeking an extension for a hearing on the status of African asylum seekers in Israel scheduled for later this week.

The request is seeking to postpone the hearing until the return of a government envoy from an unnamed country, widely reported to be Uganda, the government says has agreed to absorb the tens of thousands of migrants, mainly from Eritrea and Sudan.

The state is seeking to deport the 38,000 Africans without violating a number of High Court rulings that have struck down the controversial government plan as unconstitutional.

Trump slams Russia, Iran for backing ‘animal’ Assad

US President Donald Trump is blasting Iran and Russia for backing the Syrian regime, and says there will be a “big price” to pay for the chemical weapons attack on a rebel stronghold late last night that killed dozens of civilians.

“Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world,” Trump posts on Twitter.

“President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price to pay,” he tweets. “Open area immediately for medical help and verification. Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!”

“If President Obama had crossed his stated Red Line In The Sand, the Syrian disaster would have ended long ago! Animal Assad would have been history!”

Palestinians report IDF firing tank shells into Gaza

Palestinian media reports that Israel fired shells into the Gaza Strip for as yet unclear reasons.

The Israeli army says it cannot yet comment on the situation.

— Judah Ari Gross

IDF said to fire back at terrorists who shot at Israeli vehicles along Gaza border

Hebrew media reports that a group of terrorists fired on Israeli construction vehicles operating near the Gaza border.

An Israeli tank fired at the attacking gunmen.

There are no Israeli injuries reported.

— Judah Ari Gross

IDF: Troops fired in response to Gaza border breach

The military denies media reports that Palestinians opened fire at Israeli military equipment or personnel along the Gaza border.

However, the army confirms that troops opened fire as three suspects crossed the northern Gaza security fence and then fled back into the coastal enclave.

“The circumstances of the breach are being investigated,” the army says.

— Judah Ari Gross

German special police raid homes of far-right movement

Germany’s federal prosecutor’s office says special forces have raided apartments across the country in connection with allegations that at least eight people were involved in creating a far-right terrorist organization.

The prosecutor’s office says the raids took place Sunday morning and were targeting members of the far-right Reichsbuerger movement that does not accept the rules of today’s Germany, but identifies with the state system of the German Kaiserreich area from 1871-1918.

Authorities searched homes in Berlin, Brandenburg and the eastern state of Thuringia on suspicions that the accused started forming an organization last year at the latest. Authorities were also investigating the killings of some people and say the group may have procured weapons to enforce their goals.

The prosecutor’s statement says no one was detained during the raids.

— AP

Accomplice in Havat Gilad terror attack charged with murder

An accomplice of a Palestinian suspected of shooting dead an Israeli man earlier this year is charged with murder for his role in the terrorist attack.

Jenin resident Ahmed Kunba is also charged with several other security-related offenses for various other attempted attacks against Israeli civilians or soldiers.

The West Bank military court in Salem extends Kunba’s remand by 15 days.

His lawyer, Fadi Qawasameh, told the court that his client’s testimony was obtained by Israeli authorities under duress, and should be invalidated.

Shevach was shot dead by Ahmad Jarrar on January 9, near the West Bank settlement of Havat Gilad. Jarrar escaped after the attack, but was killed in a shootout with IDF troops outside Jenin less than a month later.

IDF appoints general to lead investigation into Gaza border deaths

The IDF General Staff appoints Brig. Gen. Moti Baruch to lead an investigation into the military’s response to a series of violent protests along the Gaza border, which has so far resulted in more than two dozen Palestinian deaths.

The army conducted similar investigations following the 2014 Gaza war and a 2015 incident in which an Israeli soldier accidentally shot dead a United Nations peacekeeper in southern Lebanon.

— Judah Ari Gross

Chief rabbi says Jews have ‘moral obligation’ to intervene in Syria

The Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel says Jews have a moral obligation to intervene in the Syrian civil war to protect innocent civilians.

Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef says in a statement that attacks on noncombatants amounts to the “genocide of women and children in its cruelest form.”

“As Jews who have experienced genocide, as Jews whose Torah is a light to the nations, it is our moral obligation to try and stop this murder, it is an obligation no less important than the moral obligation to destroy the nuclear reactor in Syria,” he says.

Yosef’s comments come after a suspected chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Douma killed dozens of civilians, including children.

Iran condemns Syria chemical charges as ‘conspiracy’

Iran condemns allegations of a chemical attack on Syria’s Eastern Ghouta rebel holdout as a “conspiracy” against its ally President Bashar Assad and a pretext for military action.

“Such allegations and accusations by the Americans and certain Western countries signal a new conspiracy against the Syrian government and people, and a pretext for military action,” Iran’s foreign ministry says in a statement.

Earlier US President Donald Trump accused Iran and Russia of backing “animal” Assad, hours after regime forces allegedly killed dozens of civilians in the chemical weapons attack on ghouta.

— with AFP

Labor leader Gabbay urges Trump to keep US troops in Syria

Labor party leader Avi Gabbay calls on US President Donald Trump to keep American troops in Syria, saying American presence will stop “bad guys” from committing atrocities in the war-torn country.

“The US must deepen its involvement in the region in order to stop atrocities from taking place in the country,” he says according to the Kan news broadcaster.

“An exit by the good guys allows the bad guys to get stronger,” Gabbai adds.

ICC: Israeli shootings, Hamas use of civilians could be war crimes

The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court calls for an end to the uptick in violence along the Gaza border and says Israel’s use of live fire to disperse protests and Hamas’s use of civilians in confrontations with IDF soldiers could violate international law.

In a statement, Fatou Bensouda warns “the situation in Palestine is under preliminary examination by my Office.”

“While a preliminary examination is not an investigation, any new alleged crime committed in the context of the situation in Palestine may be subjected to my Office’s scrutiny,” the statement says.

She says the ICC will “continue to closely watch the situation and will record any instance of incitement or resort to unlawful force.”

The statement goes on to warn anyone who “incites or engages in acts of violence including by ordering, requesting, encouraging or contributing in any other manner to the commission of crimes within ICC’s jurisdiction” are liable to be prosecuted by the ICC.

“The resort to violence must stop,” the statement adds.

German media: Knife attack on Berlin half-marathon foiled

The German daily Die Welt is reporting that police have foiled a knife attack on a half-marathon in Berlin.

The paper says special police forces detained four men in connection with Sunday’s sports event. They said the main suspect was planning to kill participants and spectators with knives.

German news agency dpa reports that police confirmed arrests in connection with the half-marathon but gave no further details.

According to Die Welt, the main suspect knew Anis Amri, the Tunisian attacker who killed 12 people and injured dozens when he drove a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin in December 2016.

The paper reports that the suspect, who was not identified, had prepared extra-sharpened knives to use in the attack.

German police confirmed some arrests in Berlin earlier today.

— AP

Syria says toxic gas accusations ‘unconvincing broken record’

Syria’s foreign ministry denounces accusations the government had deployed chemical weapons against a rebel-held town as an “unconvincing broken record.”

Damascus has been accused of perpetrating a toxic gas attack late Saturday that left dozens dead and many more suffering breathing problems in Douma.

“Allegations of chemical use have become an unconvincing broken record, except for some countries that trade with the blood of civilians and support terrorism in Syria,” state news agency SANA quotes a ministry source as saying.

“Every time the Syrian Arab Army advances in the fight against terrorism, allegations of chemical use are used as an excuse to prolong the life of terrorists in Douma,” it says.

Douma is the last rebel-held town in Eastern Ghouta, once the opposition’s main bastion near Damascus, but now battered by a seven-week regime assault.


EU calls on Russia, Iran to end Syria violence

The European Union says that following reports of another chemical attack in the Syrian war, evidence points toward the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The EU’s statement does not provide details of the evidence it mentions.

In the statement, the EU appeals to the allies of Assad, Russia and Iran, to “use their influence to prevent any further attack and ensure the cessation of hostilities and de-escalation of violence,” as per a United Nations resolution.

“The protection of civilians must remain an absolute priority,” the statement adds.

The statement comes hours after first responders reported that regime forces had used chemical weapons against the town, killing dozens of people, including children.

— with AP

State expected to tell High Court: Deportation deal with Uganda still on

The state is reportedly expected to tell the High Court of Justice on Tuesday that its controversial deal to deport African asylum seekers to Uganda has not been nixed, despite Kampala officials denying that such an agreement exists.

According to Hadashot news, officials from the Prime Minister’s Office visiting Uganda have confirmed the arrangement with government officials there.

They said Ugandan officials have backed away from the deal publicly, but said it had not been officially cancelled.

The report said that Israel was also mulling sending Eritrean asylum seekers back to their home country, despite its poor human rights record, in keeping with a recent ruling from a Swiss Court that determined that it was safe for several thousand Eritreans living in the country to return home.

Last week, Uganda’s foreign minister, Henry Okello Oryem, said that if any migrants deported from Israel arrive in the East African nation “we will insist that the airlines return them to the country where they came from.”

“We do not have a contract, any understanding, formal or informal, with Israel for them to dump their refugees here,” he added.

France seeks urgent UN Security Council meet on Syria

France has asked the UN Security Council to convene as soon as possible to examine the situation in the rebel stronghold of Eastern Ghouta, hours after an alleged regime chemical weapons attack killed dozens of civilians.

Paris has repeatedly warned that evidence of further use of chemical weapons in Syria was a “red line” that would prompt French strikes.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says France will “do its duty” in the wake of the attack, adding that “the use of chemical weapons is a war crime.”

Netanyahu failed to convince Trump to stay in Syria — report

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly failed to convince US President Donald Trump to leave American troops in Syria, during a tense phone call last week.

According to a top Israeli official, Trump told Netanyahu that it was too late, and that he had already decided to exit the war-torn country in the coming months, Channel 10 reports.

Israeli officials said the conversation left the defense establishment with the feeling that Israel was “on our own in Syria.”

The Prime Minister’s Office denied the Channel 10 report, saying the Israeli official quoted in the story “did not understand the nature of the call between Trump and Netanyahu.”

Unarmed Palestinian sneaks across border, is arrested

Israeli troops pick up an unarmed Palestinian man who crossed the Gaza border and entered Israeli territory, the army says.

The suspect is caught shortly after crossing the security fence at the northern end of the Strip, and is handed over to security services for questioning.

Compromise deal reached, PM to speak at Independence Day event — report

Culture Minister Miri Regev says a compromise deal has been reached with the Knesset Speaker that will see Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu light a ceremonial torch and speak at the official state Independence Day celebrations next month.

“I am happy that personal matters were set aside and that common sense has prevailed,” she says according to the Ynet news site.

Some reports in Hebrew-language media said the compromise deal did not include a public address by Netanayhu.

Abbas says won’t return to Gaza unless Hamas cedes control

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says that unless he gets full control over the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, including the group’s weapons, he will “not be responsible for what goes on” there.

Abbas’s comments this evening deal another blow to months of US-backed Egyptian efforts to negotiate a deal that would sideline the terrorist group Hamas and enable Abbas’s self-rule government to return to Gaza.

Hamas seized Gaza from forces loyal to Abbas in 2007.

Recent talks between Abbas and his rivals failed, mainly because Hamas refuses to disarm. This comes as tensions are rising on the Gaza-Israel border, with Hamas leading mass protests to try to break an Israeli-Egyptian border blockade.

Abbas told leaders of his Fatah movement that he has informed Egypt of his demands and is waiting to hear back.

— AP

Turkey condemns alleged chemical attack in Syria

Turkey’s president condemns an attack on rebel-held Douma near the Syrian capital, where activists and rescue workers say the Syrian regime used poison gas.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says women and children were “martyred.” He lashed out against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s international allies as well as the “West,” asking: “When will you turn round and look at these children, these women who are being killed in eastern Ghouta?”

Turkey has been working with Russia and Iran, two powerful Assad allies, to bring an end to the seven-year civil war.

— AP

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Compromise deal reached, PM to speak at Independence Day event — report

Culture Minister Miri Regev says a compromise deal has been reached with the Knesset Speaker that will see Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu light a ceremonial torch and speak at the official state Independence Day celebrations next month.

“I am happy that personal matters were set aside and that common sense has prevailed,” she says according to the Ynet news site.

Some reports in Hebrew-language media said the compromise deal did not include a public address by Netanayhu.