The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they unfolded.
The deputy head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard says Tehran’s strategy is to wipe “the Zionist regime” off the political map, the Reuters news agency reports citing Iranian TV.
“We announce that if Israel takes any action to wage a war against us, it will definitely lead to its own elimination and freeing occupied territories,” Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami is quoted as saying.
Investigators probing the Catholic cathedral bombing that killed 21 people in the Philippines’ restive south say a group tied to notorious Islamist Abu Sayyaf is the prime suspect.
Two explosions tore through the cathedral on the Muslim-majority island of Jolo yesterday, killing worshipers at Sunday mass and security forces in an attack claimed by the Islamic State terror group.
Authorities say the so-called Ajang-Ajang faction is a small band of several dozen that most likely carried out the bombing, the Philippines’ worst in years, in an act of revenge.
“Last year their leader was killed. There have been persistent reports that they will retaliate,” regional military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Gerry Besana tells AFP.
“Yes, we saw them in the CCTV. It was the brother of the leader who was killed,” he says referring to footage from outside the cathedral. “He was seen with two other members of Ajang-Ajang.”
Security forces say the group is composed of relatives of Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom group members who have been killed in clashes with the government.
Authorities close a probe into the death of a woman who died in November after falling from a building. She was being investigated in a massive diamond smuggling probe, and her family had denied suicide and had alleged abuse by police.
According to authorities, Mazal Hadadi, a bookkeeper with diamond firm LLD belonging to billionaire Lev Leviev, died after jumping from the 10th floor of the Diamond Exchange Building in Ramat Gan.
Rejecting claims of foul play, the state prosecution says that an investigation yielded no evidence of criminal involvement in Hadadi’s death.
In a statement, the State Prosecutor’s Office says it won’t go into details due to privacy concerns, and adds it has informed Hadadi’s family of the decision.
Burkina Faso’s security minister says nearly a dozen gunmen opened fire on civilians at a Sunday market yesterday in the Soum province, killing at least 10 people.
Ousseni Compaore says two others were injured in the attack on Sikire in the northern Sahel region that took place in the middle of the day while the market was full. He says investigations into the attack are ongoing.
Islamic extremists have increased attacks in the Sahel region, forcing Burkina Faso to declare a state of emergency there.
The jihadist threat has also shifted from the northern Sahel region, home to radicalized local preacher Ibrahim Malam Dicko, into the forested east near the border with Niger.
Burkina Faso is part of a five-nation regional counter-terror force, the G5 Sahel, launched in 2017.
French President Emmanuel Macron meets with his Egyptian counterpart President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo, aiming to raise concerns over human rights and boost ties between their countries.
The two leaders are due to oversee the signing of around 30 deals between Egypt and France worth several hundred million euros (dollars).
Shortly after his arrival in Egypt yesterday, Macron said he would talk “more openly” with Sissi on human rights.
“Things have gotten worse since October 2017” when Sissi visited Paris, said Macron, referring to the human rights situation in the North African country.
Sissi’s government is seen by Egyptian civil society as “more hardline than the regime of (Hosni) Mubarak,” he said, referring to the longtime president who was deposed in 2011.
“My line is: Stability and respect for sovereignty. But what is happening here threatens” Egypt’s stability, Macron said.
Macron said in 2017 during Sissi’s visit to Paris that he would not “lecture” Egypt on human rights.
President Reuven Rivlin calls on his Greek counterpart, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, to express strong criticism of Greek churches’ failure to condemn anti-Semitic vandalism.
Vandals on Friday smashed a campus monument that marks the site of a former Jewish cemetery, causing significant damage to the marble monument.
The centuries-old cemetery was razed during the German Nazi occupation, and the university was built on its site.
“The Greek church leaders’ silence is very concerning,” Rivlin tells Pavlopoulos. “Unfortunately, all the Christian religious institutions in Greece are remaining silent in the face of anti-Semitism, as we saw yesterday.”
Several Jewish monuments in Greece have been vandalized in recent years.
The Israeli military in 2018 spent NIS 40 million ($10.9 million) in expenses related to the riots and protests along the Gaza border, the Defense Ministry says.
On March 30, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip launched weekly “Great March of Return” protests along the border, which regularly devolved into violent clashes with Israeli troops and the launching of airborne incendiary devices into southern Israel.
Revealing spending figures from last year, the ministry says the NIS 40 million was a special fund separate from the military’s annual budget. It does not include payments to residents of the area around Gaza whose farmlands were burned in arson attacks by Palestinians from the enclave.
In addition, the Defense Ministry says it spent NIS 45 billion ($12.23 billion) on Israeli-made weapons and materiel. Of that, NIS 11.6 billion ($3.15 billion) was paid to Israel Aerospace Industries, the ministry says.
— Judah Ari Gross
Facebook unveils new tools to counter online election meddling in upcoming elections around the globe, including in Israel and in Europe, part of a campaign to answer growing pressure on the social media giant to rein in disinformation.
The transparency tools for electoral ads will launch in Israel before the April 9 elections as well as in India and Ukraine, with a global expansion before the end of June, a company statement says.
The US tech giant’s vice president, former British deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, says in a speech the methods will become available in late March and help “make political advertising on Facebook more transparent.”
Facebook has come under intense scrutiny since the 2016 US presidential election, when the platform was a conduit for a large amount of election meddling traced to Russia.
— with AFP
MK Yehudah Glick marries Hadas Disin in an official ceremony, less than a month after the Likud lawmaker announced from the Knesset podium he would be remarrying a year after his late wife’s death.
His new wife runs a nonprofit aiding widows and orphans.
Glick’s first wife, Yaffa, died on January 1, 2018, six months after she suffered a stroke.
חתן וכלה מזל טוב pic.twitter.com/lXcTIHG86A
— arik bender (@arikbender) January 28, 2019
In a meeting with settler leaders and residents of the Netiv Ha’avot outpost, whose homes built on private Palestinian land were demolished last June, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vows that no settlements will be uprooted in any future peace agreement so long as he is prime minister.
“As far as I am concerned, there will not be anymore uprooting of communities or the cessation of (building in) communities, but rather the exact opposite. The land of Israel is ours and it will remain ours. What has fallen will be rebuilt. It is ours. We are building here, and you are living here,” says Netanyahu in the living room of one of the families whose home was demolished.
The government built the 15 evicted families a temporary village on an adjacent hilltop, which the prime minister was visiting this afternoon as part of his tour of the Gush Etzion Regional council southeast of Jerusalem.
Referring to the High Court of Justice decision sanctioning the razing, he says “we faced a setback.”
“We are a state of law subject to the decisions of the High Court of Justice, which ruled what it ruled,” he says.
Netanyahu also refers to the intensifying corruption investigations against him. “People are constantly asking me, how do you endure all the investigations and attacks on your family?”
“I withstand it all thanks to this place — the sense of mission you have. We returned to our homeland, to the ‘path of our forefathers,'” says Netanyahu, referring to the meaning behind the Netiv Ha’avot outpost’s name. “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob passed through here. We have been here for 3,000 years. We have returned to Israel and to our homeland.”
— Jacob Magid
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri announces that he has decided to grant former NBA star Amar’e Stoudemire the right of residency in Israel, adding that his office will soon consider granting him citizenship.
The American basketball player has been living and playing in Israel for several years and has begun a conversion process to Judaism.
Deri says he made his decision due to those factors and because of his “magnificent career and big contribution to Israeli basketball.”
“I heard and read about the athlete and am under the impression that he genuinely wants to make Israel his home, even after his career ends,” he says in a statement.
The crisis in OPEC member Venezuela could impact the oil market balance, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih tells the Al-Arabiya news channel.
“Of course, developments in Venezuela may have an impact on the (oil) markets … We are watching developments there and there could be an impact on the oil market balance,” Falih says.
Egyptian security officials say a British woman sentenced to three years in prison for bringing hundreds of painkillers into the country has been included in a recent pardon list.
Laura Plummer, 34, was arrested in October 2017 on arrival from Britain at Hurghada, a Red Sea resort. She was accused of attempting to smuggle hundreds of Tramadol tablets, which are banned in the Arab country.
She said the tablets were for her Egyptian partner, who suffers chronic back pain.
The officials say Plummer was one of 6,925 prisoners pardoned by President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on January 25, the anniversary of Egypt’s 2011 uprising. She is awaiting a flight home.
The officials speak on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to brief media.
The German Foreign Office condemns the killing of a Palestinian man, allegedly by a settler, during a violent confrontation in the West Bank on Saturday.
The ministry calls on Israel to bring those responsible to justice.
We are grieved and concerned by the fatal attack on a 38-year-old Palestinian father near Ramallah. Our hearts go out to his family. Violence, regardless of which side commits it, cannot be tolerated. The perpetrators must be held to account.
— GermanForeignOffice (@GermanyDiplo) January 28, 2019
Hamdi Na’asan, 38, was killed Saturday near the Ramallah-area village of Mughayyir. There were conflicting claims as to how the deadly incident unfolded. Local Palestinians say settlers from the nearby Adei Ad outpost fatally shot Na’asan during a clash, but Adei Ad residents claim their security guards fired shots in the air to chase away Palestinians attackers who stabbed a Jewish man.
Polish prosecutors are investigating an anti-Semitic protest by dozens of far-right nationalists outside the gates of Auschwitz.
The incident took place yesterday in Oswiecim, the southern Polish town where Nazi Germany operated Auschwitz during World War II. It happened as Holocaust survivors gathered nearby to commemorate the anniversary of the camp’s liberation, a day also recognized each year as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Piotr Rybak, a far-right activist with a past conviction for burning the effigy of a Jew in 2015, could be seen in TV footage saying “we must tell Jewish invaders … that we are masters of this country.”
Mariusz Slomka, a deputy district prosecutor in Oswiecim, says prosecutors are investigating. In Poland, it’s a crime to incite hatred based on religion or race.
Hundreds of people have fled the Islamic State group’s last major stronghold in Syria, including fighters who tried to sneak out among civilians, Syrian opposition activists say.
The Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed and Kurdish-led group, has intensified its offensive in the last area held by the extremists since US President Donald Trump announced plans to withdraw American troops last month. The ground offensive is taking place under the cover of airstrikes by the US-led coalition.
Despite the intensity of the offensive and the airstrikes some IS fighters holed up in two villages are refusing to surrender and have continued to inflict losses among the attacking forces while using civilians as human shields.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says some 2,000 people, including 300 IS gunmen, have left the area in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour since yesterday. It says many of those who left are from Iraq and the former Soviet Union.
Rami Abdurrahman, the director of the Observatory, says a search is underway for any senior IS commanders who might be in the area.
The DeirEzzor 24, an activist collective, reports that dozens of civilians have left the area, adding that the SDF captured a local IS commander and his bodyguard.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office says the premier will meet Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergey Vershinin and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s envoy on Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, tomorrow.
The Russian officials have arrived in Israel to discuss the situation in Syria, the Ynet news site reports.
Vershinin and Lavrentiev landed earlier today and met with Foreign Ministry director general Yuval Rotem, the report says.
Retired IDF brigadier general Gal Hirsch, a controversial former candidate to be Israel’s top cop, launches his new political party, Shield of Israel, and says he aims to become public security minister in the next government.
Hirsch earlier this month announced the formation of his new party that will run in the April 9 elections. However, no poll conducted since has predicted he will succeed in entering the Knesset.
“I will make sure we have an excellent, quality, strong and proud police force, and that all security and law enforcement forces have checks and balances,” Hirsch tells his supporters.
The former commander of the IDF’s fight against Iran says the Islamic Republic has been largely blocked from establishing a permanent military presence in Syria.
Asked if the Israeli military had succeeded in preventing Iranian entrenchment in Syria, Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon responds, “Yes, to a large extent yes.”
Alon, who is due to retire from the military shortly after being passed over for the position of chief of staff, makes his remarks onstage at the Institute for National Security Studies conference in Tel Aviv.
Alon, who was given the task of leading the IDF’s fight against Iran in 2018, says there is a significant gap between what Iran planned to accomplish in terms of establishing a military presence in Syria and what the Islamic Republic has actually achieved.
Alon says the issue of its military presence in Syria has become a divisive issue in Iran, in light of the regular attacks by Israel.
The general says Israel should seek to “expand the cracks” in Iranian society in an effort to pressure Tehran into fully removing its forces from Syria.
— Judah Ari Gross
Canadian authorities have reportedly revoked the charity status of a major Jewish organization, charging that its activities support the Israel Defense Forces and West Bank settlements.
The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) earlier this month stripped the Beth Oloth Charitable Organization of its status, after 39 years of operation, Global News reports. With more than CAD 60 million (USD 45 million), it was one of the country’s richest charities.
The CRA explained its decision by saying Beth Oloth donates to Israeli pre-army seminaries, called mechinot, and that it considers those donations to be aiding the operations of Israel’s military.
“It is our position that these pre-army mechinot exist to provide support to the Israel Defense Forces, and that funds forwarded to these mechinot are therefore in support of foreign armed forces,” it reportedly said.
The CRA also said Beth Oloth donated CAD 1.2 million (USD 900,000) to recipients in West Bank settlements, adding that it goes against Ottawa’s policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to the report.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decides not to extend the mandate of the civilian observer mission in the West Bank city of Hebron known as Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH).
“We won’t enable the continued presence of an international force that acts against us,” Netanyahu says in a statement.
The decision comes after settlers and police complained that TIPH members were “deliberately creating friction to justify their high salary.”
In a report earlier this month, police said members were disrupting IDF soldiers’ work vetting Palestinians at local checkpoints and regularly confronting troops.
Settlers and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan had urged Netanyahu to end the force’s mission at the end of January and not renew it.
Former IDF chief and Knesset hopeful Benny Gantz unveils his party’s election campaign jingle, which echoes his previously stated talking points.
Once again evading an expression of opinion on any specific matter relevant to voters, the rock song — which features verses that are closer to rap — says in its chorus: “There is no right wing or left wing, there is only Israel, before everything else.”
“We came to win, to go until the end, the power of togetherness does us nothing but good,” the song continues, urging Israelis to “think like patriots.”
אין יותר ימין או שמאל. בקרוב בפלייליסט. האזינו.#BG19
Posted by בני גנץ – Benny Gantz on Monday, 28 January 2019
Benny Gantz, head of the Israel Resilience Party, will assail Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as corrupt in his first political speech tomorrow evening, and will say he will not join his government if an indictment is filed, Channel 12 reports.
“I will not sit in a government headed by someone with an indictment filed against them,” Gantz is set to say in his long-awaited prime time speech at 8 p.m. on Tuesday. “I will not sit in a government with a prime minister [with an indictment against him] after a hearing. I won’t rule out sitting in one before a hearing [is concluded].”
He will reportedly continue: “Israel is not a monarchy and there is no king or queen. The Netanyahu family is not a royal family, and Netanyahu is not a king. This is a bad and corrupt government that is ruling the people.”
Gantz, who has emerged as the biggest challenger to Netanyahu, will also vow to limit the number of the prime minister’s terms in office, the report adds.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro came out of an eight-hour-long surgery during which doctors removed a colostomy bag put into place after he was stabbed in a campaign rally in September.
The office of presidential spokesman Gen. Otavio Santana do Rego Barros says the operation was a success.
Bolsonaro checked in to the Albert Einstein hospital in Sao Paulo yesterday evening.
Vice President Hamilton Mourao took the reins this morning, as interim president for a period of 48 hours. Bolsonaro is then expected to resume work from his hospital room, where he will stay for several days.
Bolsonaro, 63, nearly died on September 6 after he was stabbed during a campaign rally in the southeastern city of Juiz de Fora. The far-right president suffered serious internal bleeding and intestinal damage.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to give a speech at a US-Polish conference on the Middle East in Warsaw next month, where he will speak out strongly against Iran, Channel 13 news reports.
Netanyahu is expected to be a central speaker at the event organized by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the report says. Also attending will be representatives of Gulf nations including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Oman.
Iran and the Palestinian Authority have not been invited.
Right-wing politicians and organizations praise Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to end the mandate of the TIPH international observer mission in the West Bank city of Hebron.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who had urged Netanyahu to make the decision, says TIPH members had “disturbed IDF soldiers and police, created friction with the settlers, cooperated with extremist organizations and promoted delegitimization of Israel.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Zeev Elkin are among other Likud members to hail the announcement.
MK Mordechai Yogev (Jewish Home) says TIPH’s mandate should have ended since “it was made up of Israel haters, was one-sided and recently even harmed Jews and Jewish property in Hebron. Hebron has been, is and will continue to be ours.”
The body representing the Jewish settlers in Hebron in a statement thanks the premier for his “Zionist, responsible, respectful and necessary decision.”
Benny Gantz’s Israel Resilience Party denies TV reports claiming to reveal the content of his maiden political speech tomorrow evening, suggesting the actual address will be different.
“In the past week, various parties suggested several speech texts to Israel Resilience’s chairman,” the party says in a statement. “One of the drafts that weren’t approved ended up in the hands of some media outlets.
“Tomorrow, at 8 p.m., the citizens of Israel are invited to watch the real speech.”
A man is seriously hurt after suffering gunshot wounds in the central city of Jaffa, police say in a statement.
The wounded man is taken to Wolfson hospital in Holon.
Police forces arrive at the scene and initiate an investigation. The background for incident is said to be criminal.