The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they unfolded.
Shin Bet makes 2 arrests in murder of IDF soldier at Arad bus station
The Shin Bet security service reveals that it arrested two Bedouin Israelis suspected of murdering IDF soldier Ron Yitzhak Kokia last week in the southern city of Arad.
The suspects were arrested on Friday night, but a gag order, now removed, prevented it from being reported.
The Shin Bet describes the stabbing as a terror attack, wit the suspects acting from “nationalistic motivations.”
The suspects returned Kokia’s service weapon, which they had stolen after stabbing him.
“The investigation of the suspects continues,” the Shin Bet says.
— Judah Ari Gross
EU chief cancels trip to Israel, PA for ‘critical’ Brexit talks
EU President Donald Tusk has canceled a trip to Israel and the West Bank this week because talks on a Brexit deal are in a “critical” phase, his spokesman says.
“Due to a critical moment in the Brexit talks and due to consultations on draft guidelines for the second phase,” the trip from Tuesday to Wednesday has been called off, Tusk’s spokesman Preben Aamann tells AFP.
Tusk had been due to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Tuesday night, and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Ramallah on Wednesday, according to his official schedule published last week.
5 Syrians convicted in IS blast that killed Jordanian border guards
Jordan’s state security court convicts five Syrians of helping Islamic State militants carry out a 2016 car bomb attack that led to the closure of the Syrian-Jordanian border.
The court imposes the death penalty on one defendant and sentences three to life in prison. A fifth was sentenced to two years in prison.
The cross-border attack, launched from near the Rukban border camp for displaced Syrians, killed seven Jordanian border guards. In response, Jordan sealed the border.
Judge Mohammed Afif says the defendants collected information about Jordan’s military positions on the border for IS. He says four admitted receiving monthly payments from IS.
The judge says the defendant who was sentenced to death had filmed the attack on his mobile phone and given the footage to IS.
Former Egyptian PM to ‘further study’ presidential run
A former Egyptian prime minister who had declared his intention to run for president next year says he needs to “further study” his plans before he makes a final decision.
Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister to serve under ousted ruler Hosni Mubarak, ended more than five years of exile in the United Arab Emirates when he flew home Saturday.
He was escorted out of Cairo airport by security personnel and was not heard of for 24 hours until he broke his silence late last night, speaking in a telephone interview to a political talk show host on the private TV network Dream.
“I believe it is required that I further study and examine the matter,” he says in reply to a question about his presidential candidacy.
Lapid says US should have recognized Jerusalem as Israeli capital 70 years ago
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid says the US should have recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “70 years ago” or at the very least, “the day after ’67.”
At the weekly Yesh Atid meeting, Lapid expresses hope the US will now declare Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate its embassy.
Lapid speaks ahead of US President Donald Trump’s deadline to sign a six-month waiver on moving the embassy, with an announcement expected tomorrow.
He also addresses the so-called police recommendations bill. He says Netanyahu’s statement yesterday that the bill will be revised to exclude the cases against him was “an admission of guilt” as the prime minister has insisted throughout he is not involved in the legislation.
— Marissa Newman
Netanyahu hails Israel-Africa ties at launch of aid project
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hails the growing ties between Israel and Africa in a ceremony marking the start of Israel’s participation in a US government aid project to provide increased electricity to Africa.
At a signing ceremony in Jerusalem, Netanyahu says perceptions of Israel in many countries is changing thanks to the technological prowess of the Jewish state.
“It means that what we’re doing, what we’re developing here, is a partnership not only of governments, but of peoples,” Netanyahu says. “And what the people understand is that cooperation with Israel, just as it helped agriculture in Africa in the ‘60s, can now help every realm of life in the beginning of the 21st century.
“It’s a remarkably positive development. We’re going to continue this step after step after step,” Netanyahu tells visiting African and American dignitaries.
“We believe in Africa. I believe in Africa. I believe in the partnership with Africa.”
Under the agreement, Israeli companies will be able to take part in the Power Africa initiative and will receive various tools to advance projects for generating electricity and connecting consumers on the continent, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.
Several injured as scaffolding collapses at construction site near Jerusalem
Several people are injured when a scaffolding of a three-story building under construction collapses in Beitar Illit, the Magen David Adom emergency rescue service says.
Emegency crews are treating an unspecified number of injured at the building site on 22 Baba Sali Street.
Yemen’s Houthi rebels claim ex-president Saleh killed
Yemen’s rebel-controlled interior ministry announces the “killing” of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, as a video emerged showing what appeared to be Saleh’s corpse.
“The interior ministry announces the end of the crisis of militias and the killing of their leader and a number of his criminal supporters,” an anchor said on the rebels’ official Al-Masirah television, referring to armed supporters of Saleh.
Saleh on Saturday announced the end of his alliance with the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, with whom he has jointly ruled the capital for three years.
The statement comes shortly after a video began to circulate on social media showing what appeared to be a dead Saleh, wrapped in a floral-print blanket with a severe head injury.
The 75-year-old strongman ruled Yemen for more than three decades, until his ouster under popular and political pressure in 2012.
Liberman says mini-market law a ‘blatant violation’ of coalition deal
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman says his Yisrael Beytenu party will vote against a bill advanced by the ultra-Orthodox parties to close mini-markets on the Jewish Sabbath. But he says his party won’t drag the country to elections over the proposal.
Speaking at the weekly Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting, Liberman says the bill is a “blatant violation” of the coalition agreements.
“We will vote in the Knesset against this bill,” he says, voicing relief that the proposal — initially slated for a vote tomorrow — had been delayed. Liberman, however, stresses he won’t break up the coalition over the fight, in this “sensitive” time for Israel’s security.
“If the government goes to elections, it will be because of the Haredi parties,” he declares.
At the meeting, Liberman attacks Labor chairman Avi Gabbay, who had called him out yesterday over corruption allegations against him. “The man is simply not relevant, and I am happy he’s leading the Labor party to collapse,” says Liberman.
The defense minister is also dismissive of threats of violence should the US relocate its embassy to Jerusalem or declare it Israel’s capital. “We’ll know how to deal with the ramifications,” he says.
He calls for the move, dubbing it a “historic opportunity,” the “right step,” and “very, very important for all Jewish people.” Liberman says he “completely supports” the move.
— Marissa Newman
6 Palestinians lightly injured at building site accident in Beitar Illit
The Magen David Adom emergency rescue service says 6 Palestinian workers sustained light to moderate injuries when a scaffolding collapsed at a construction site in Beitar Illit.
One worker is taken to the Hadassah Medical Center in Ein Kerem, and the other 5 are taken by Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance service to medical centers in the West Bank.
MDA says the incident appears to have occurred when a ceiling at the building site collapsed.
Firefighting crews are combing the debris for any additional casualties.
Trump endorses accused child molester Roy Moore for Senate
US President Donald Trump issues his most explicit endorsement to date of embattled Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women including one who was 14 years old at the time.
Trump had previously characterized the allegations, first reported by The Washington Post, as “very troubling” before changing tack and warning voters in Moore’s home state of Alabama that a victory for his Democratic rival Doug Jones “would be a disaster!”
In a tweet, he cites Democrats’ opposition to his legislative agenda, including tax cuts, as reasons for his support.
“Democrats refusal to give even one vote for massive Tax Cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama,” he tweets.
“We need his vote on stopping crime, illegal immigration, Border Wall, Military, Pro Life, V.A., Judges 2nd Amendment and more. No to Jones, a Pelosi/Schumer Puppet!”
Moore, a 70-year-old Christian conservative with a history of controversy stemming from his tenure on Alabama’s supreme court, had been a strong favorite to win the right-wing state’s special election on December 12 before the allegations broke.
Most of the allegations about Moore relate to when he was a prosecutor in his mid-30s and sought to pursue relationships with teens, according to the reports.
Bennett hails PM for amending recommendations bill, urges coalition to work ‘responsibly’
Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett commends Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for removing himself from the so-called police recommendations bill.
He urges the coalition parties to work “responsibly” to avoid “early elections.”
Unlike the police bill, there are some upcoming laws that are worth “fighting with all our strength,” says Bennett, naming the Jewish state bill and other amendments to the country’s quasi-constitutional Basic Laws as examples.
— Marissa Newman
Officials confirm Houthi video shows slain Yemeni ex-president
A video by Yemen’s Houthi rebels allegedly shows the slain body of the country’s former leader Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Officials from various sides, including the Houthis’ opponents, have confirmed that the video shows the former powerful president.
Abdel-Rahman al-Ahnomi, a top Houthi media official, tells The Associated Press that Saleh was killed near Marib, the eastern province bordering Saudi Arabia. “He was trying to flee to Saudi,” he says.
The video, apparently shot by one of the attackers, showed a Houthi crowd picking up Saleh’s dead body, wrapped in a colorful blanket, off the ground and lifting it onto a pickup truck. Saleh’s eyes appear wide open, the back of his head badly injured, and his shirt blood stained under a dark suit.
A senior Yemeni government official affiliated with Houthis’ rivals and some of Saleh’s associates, such as Nabil al-Soufi and Ali al-Bukhiti, also confirms his death on social media and in TV interviews.
Facebook’s Sandberg warns of backlash against women who report sexual assault
Sheryl Sandberg warns of a potential backlash against women and urges companies to put into place clear policies on how allegations of sexual harassment are handled.
In a Facebook post over the weekend, Sandberg says that she has experienced harassment while doing her job but never by anyone she’s worked for. She did note, however, that in each instance the harasser had more power than she did.
“That’s not a coincidence,” the 48-year-old writes. “It’s why they felt free to cross that line.”
Sandberg says that the current movement taking place, following the high-profile sexual misconduct scandals of those including Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Matt Lauer, is empowering victims to speak up but is not enough.
The Facebook executive says “too many workplaces lack clear policies about how to handle accusations of sexual harassment.” She recommends every workplace start with clear principles and put in place policies to support them. That includes creating training sessions on proper workplace behavior, taking all claims seriously, establishing an investigation process and taking swift, decisive action against wrongdoing.
“We have to be vigilant to make sure this happens,” Sandberg writes. “I have already heard the rumblings of a backlash: ‘This is why you shouldn’t hire women.’ Actually, this is why you should.”
Turkey warns of ‘disaster’ if US recognizes Jerusalem as Israeli capital
The Turkish government is warning US President Donald Trump against recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and moving its embassy there.
“If other steps are taken for Jerusalem, whose status is under protection by international agreements, the outcome will be disaster,” Turkish government spokesperson Bekir Bozdag says after a cabinet meeting.
He says such a move would “entirely abolish the peace process” and “pave the way for new uneasiness,” according to the Hurriyet Daily News.
“International agreements and United Nations resolutions require the protection of Jerusalem’s status, and the UN has a separate commitment to maintain this status,” Bozdag says. “Turkey reminds everyone once again of their responsibilities and commitments at this point.”
At a Washington-based forum yesterday, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, said the US president has not yet decided whether to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or whether to proceed immediately in moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city.
Abbas’s Fatah party calls for mass mobilization if Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
The Palestinian Authority’s dominant party, Fatah, calls for mass mobilization of Palestinians if US President Donald Trump officially recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, or moves its embassy there.
It has been widely reported that Trump will announce the embassy move, or perhaps simply declare that the US recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, on Wednesday.
The status of Jerusalem is one of the most contentious issues of the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the suggestion that Trump could reverse years of US policy has prompted a furious bout of lobbying from the Palestinian leadership.
— Dov Lieber
US teen gets suspended sentence over Auschwitz vandalism
A Polish court hands an American teenager a suspended one-year prison sentence for etching his name on a barrack at the former Nazi German death camp at Auschwitz, a local news agency reports.
Identified only as Raphael A., the 17-year-old rabbinical school student was arrested in early July after an employee of the Auschwitz Museum saw him use a rock to scrawl his name inside one of the barracks.
The student explained that he had seen several other words etched on the wall.
Konrad Gwozdziewicz, the presiding judge at the court in Oswiecim, southern Poland, says he took into account the fact that the accused was young, had expressed his regret and had no criminal record.
But he also expressed astonishment: “This act was committed by a student of a religious school for future rabbis, so by someone who should be fully aware of the importance and nature of the former Auschwitz camp,” he said.
The teenager, who did not attend the hearing, was also ordered to pay one thousand zlotys (240 euros, $280) to the Auschwitz museum, located on the grounds of the World War II-era death camp.
Palestinian policeman reportedly stabbed by Salafi extremist in Gaza
Hamas-run Interior Ministry in Gaza says one policeman was seriously wounded after being stabbed by an unidentified assailant.
Local media reports say the assailant was a Salafi extremist.
The ministry says the incident took place while the policeman was manning a checkpoint on Salah-a-Din Street in eastern Gaza.
The assailant was injured during the incident and transferred to a hospital, the ministry says.
— Dov Lieber
High school teachers in northern Israel strike over salaries again tomorrow
The teachers union announces a one-day strike for high schools in northern Israel tomorrow.
The one-day strike will be observed by some 9,000 teachers and will affect schools in Afula, Beit She’an, Kafr Kana, Migdal HaEmek, Nazareth Illit and Tirat Zvi.
The strike, the fourth in the last several weeks, is being called by teachers demanding higher salaries who claim the government is procrastinating over talks.
The teachers’ union representing high school staff wants an immediate monthly gross wage increase for starting teachers, from NIS 6,400 ($1,820) to NIS 8,000 ($2,275), along with a comparable raise for teachers with up to seven years experience.
The teachers have previously claimed that the Finance Ministry is “refusing to reach an agreement in good faith.”
IDF to test emergency sirens in Beit Shemesh tomorrow
The IDF will test its emergency siren system in the central Israeli city of Beit Shemesh and the surrounding area at 10:05 a.m. tomorrow, the army says.
In the case of an actual rocket alert siren, the system will sound twice.
In addition to the sirens, there will also be emergency broadcasts on the IDF Home Front Command’s smartphone application and on special beepers that the army has given to people with hearing problems.
As always, the IDF says that the system test is not connected to any particular incident and was scheduled months ago.
— Judah Ari Gross
Muslim nations call for summit if Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israeli capital
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation calls for a summit of Muslim nations if the United States takes the controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
US President Donald Trump faces a key decision this week over Jerusalem’s status, potentially reversing years of US policy and prompting a furious response from the Palestinians and the Arab world.
The 57-member OIC is seeking to amplify concern over the possible move in an emergency meeting later today in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah.
“If the United States takes the step of recognising Jerusalem as the so-called capital of Israel, we unanimously recommend holding a meeting at the level of council of foreign ministers followed by an Islamic summit as soon as possible,” the pan-Islamic body says in a statement.
The OIC also warns that recognizing Jerusalem or establishing any diplomatic mission in the disputed city would be seen as a “blatant attack on the Arab and Islamic nations.”
Egypt’s police say 5 militants killed, 6 arrested near Cairo
Egypt’s Interior Ministry says security forces have killed five suspected militants in a shootout in a province about 150 kilometers (93 miles) east of Cairo.
It says in a statement that police arrested another six militants in followup raids on a desert area in the Sharqiya province.
Police found bomb-making materials, assault rifles and ammunition at the site, the statement adds.
Egypt’s military and security forces have been waging a yearslong campaign against militants, mainly in the northern region of the Sinai peninsula — where Islamic extremists carried out the country’s deadliest attack last month, killing 305 people — and the country has been in a state of emergency for months.
Broke South Sudan spends millions on Israeli surveillance drones
Cash-strapped South Sudan has spent millions of dollars on Israeli surveillance drones and security cameras aimed at fighting rampant crime in the capital Juba, officials say.
The first two drones and 11 cameras will be deployed by Israeli company Global Group, President Salva Kiir says at a launch event.
Criminals “can now be traced and they cannot get away with crime,” he says.
“All the planes at the airport will be safe. Everybody can be screened wherever he or she is going,” Kiir says, speaking at the drone control center at a police training center.
Edward Dimitiri, technology director at the interior ministry, would not put an exact price tag on the project, which he said was costing “millions of dollars.”
Since the outbreak of a fresh civil war four years ago, South Sudan’s oil-based economy has all but collapsed, further impoverishing an already poor population, while the ongoing conflict has uprooted a third of the population and pushed millions more to the brink of starvation.
Rishon Lezion mayor implicated in Bitan corruption probe remanded until Thursday
Rishon Lezion Mayor Dov Zur is among the 17 city officials who was detained for questioning yesterday in the widening probe into a slew of corruption allegations against coalition chairman David Bitan.
Police suspect Zur ensured his associates won municipal tenders for various building projects, even at higher than average market prices.
Yesterday, the Rishon Lezion District Court remanded Zur into police custody until Thursday, after the judge said his answers were “inconsistent” with investigation material.
Judge Amit Michaels said the court “cannot ignore the fact the suspect is believed to have attempted to conceal his actions.”
“The picture that has been painted in recent months is bleak and worrisome,” he said at the hearing.
Yesterday, Bitan was questioned for a marathon 13 hours by the Lahav 433 Serious Crimes Unit on suspicion of receiving bribes, fraud, money laundering, and breach of trust when he served as deputy mayor of Rishon Lezion in 2015.
Fighting ebbs in Yemen’s Sana’a after Saleh death
Witnesses say that fighting has subsided in the Yemeni capital Sana’a hours after the announcement of the death of Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Residents say they saw fighters hand themselves in and others withdraw from their positions. Al-Masirah TV network, run by the Shiite Houthis rebels, also showed footage of what appeared to be Saleh’s forces handing themselves in. The channel had earlier carried a broadcast in which the Houthi’s leader, Abdul-Malek al-Houthi, said his forces had killed Saleh for “treason.”
In other areas like Fag Attan, Saleh’s forces are still surrounded by Houthis. It was not immediately clear if the fighting would resume again in the morning.
The Houthis have also seized the homes of Saleh and some of his family members in a southern district of Sanaa — the so-called Political District — which witnessed some of the heaviest clashes.
The Interior Ministry, affiliated with the Houthis, says that Houthi-allied security forces are carrying out raids and arrests at the homes of Saleh’s associates and supporters.
UN group to monitor Yemen rights abuses
The UN’s human rights chief appoints experts from Tunisia, Britain and Australia to a panel tasked with monitoring and reporting on rights abuses in Yemen.
The UN Human Rights Council in September approved the creation of the group of “eminent international and regional experts.” The high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, says it will be chaired by Kamel Jendoubi of Tunisia and will include Britain’s Charles Garraway and Melissa Parke of Australia.
The group is to submit a report to Zeid by September 2018.
Zeid says its creation “is an important step toward accountability and ending impunity for the serious violations of human rights committed by all sides in Yemen amid a worsening humanitarian crisis in the country, and ensuring justice and remedy for the victims.”
Police to open corruption investigation into UN Ambassador Danon
Police are opening an investigation into Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon who has been accused of widespread political corruption to further his personal career.
According to Hadashot news, State Prosecuter Shai Nitzan says the Attorney General’s office believes there is sufficient evidence in the case to move forward with an investigation.
Last week, the TV station alleged that Danon, a senior member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, took control of a department of the World Zionist Organization intended to promote Zionism, and appointed cronies and their relatives to highly salaried positions, paid from public funds, in exchange for their support in Likud primary elections.
Danon, a former Likud MK, won the chairmanship of the World Likud organization in 2006 and held the post until 2015, a position which, the TV report said, gave him tremendous influence on appointments and budgets for national institutions. World Likud is one of the World Unions under the aegis of the World Zionist Organization.
UN political chief heads to North Korea on rare visit
The UN political chief is heading to North Korea on a rare visit at the invitation of the government for a wide-ranging discussion on policy issues “of mutual concern.”
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman will arrive in Pyongyang Tuesday and stay until Friday.
He tells reporters that Feltman, who is currently in Beijing, will meet North Korea’s foreign minister, a vice minister, diplomats and UN staff.
Dujarric refuses to provide further details or say whether Feltman would discuss a possible visit to North Korea by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. He noted that Guterres has repeatedly said “his good offices are always available if the parties want.”
Dujarric says Feltman was invited informally in September and the visit was confirmed November 30.
Police source: Evidence against Bitan in money laundering, bribery case ‘strong’
The widening corruption investigation into Coalition Chairman David Bitan will mark the end of his political career, an anonymous source tells Channel 10 news.
The source says the bribery and money laundering scheme involving Bitan amounts to tens of millions of shekels, and that police investigators only presented him with the fraction of the evidence against him during his 13-hour marathon questioning yesterday.
“Bitan’s political career is over, but he doesn’t know it yet,” a law enforcement source tells the TV station. “Investigators didn’t even present him with one-thousandth of the evidence they have against him, and more questioning will be coming.”
“This isn’t just about a quid pro quo, its more about the bribery and money laundering,” he adds. “Its a strong case.”
Bitan is suspected of having received a bribe from a crime figure in return for swaying a real estate tender in his favor when he served as deputy mayor of Rishon Lezion between 2005 and 2015.
He was questioned by police for over 13 hours yesterday.
Despite corruption probes, new poll shows Netayahu would still win hypothetical election
Despite the ongoing corruption investigations into the prime minister, a new poll conducted by Hadashot news reveals that if elections were to be held today, Netanyahu’s Likud party would still win with some 24 Knesset seats, down from its current 30.
The survey indicates that the Yair Lapid’s opposition Yesh Atid party would come in second place with 22 seats, up from its current 11.
The Zionist Union would get 18 seats, down from its current 24, while the right-wing nationalist Jewish Home party would jump to 12 seats from its current 8.
A hypothetical election would bring the greatest loss to Moshe Kahlon’s centrist Kulanu party, that would earn 6 seats, down from its current 10.
Kahlon, Netanyahu’s finance minister was criticized after Kulanu voted in favor of a bill restricting police authority to recommend criminal charges as an attempt to protect Netanyahu from the corruption probes into his affairs.
Danon denies wrongdoing after corruption investigation announced
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon insists he has conducted his professional career “in accordance with all the rules and procedures,” after reports emerged that state prosecutors have instructed police to open a corruption investigation into his affairs.
In a statement, Danon says the “police investigation will confirm this as well.”
Danon goes on to call for a “similar investigation” into opposition party lawmakers from Meretz and the Zionist Union. Opposition lawmakers last week publicly called for Danon to be recalled from his post in New York over the allegations.
Iran memo demands US account for death of Iranian-American
Tehran has sent Washington a memo to protest the death of an unarmed Iranian-American who was shot by US Park Police after a short chase in Virginia.
A report by the official IRNA news agency says Iran’s Foreign Ministry delivered the memo to the Swiss envoy in Tehran, who looks after US interests in Iran.
The 25-year-old Bijan Ghaisar died last Monday, 10 days after the shooting that the FBI is investigating.
Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi says the memo demanded that Washington officials elaborate on the “regretful and illegal” incident, pursue prosecution of suspects, and compensate the victim’s family for their loss.
Tehran and Washington have had no diplomatic ties after Iranian militant students stormed the US Embassy following the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.