The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.
Palestinian Jerusalem resident held for plotting attack
Israel’s security service says it has detained and charged a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem who was planning a terror attack in the city.
The man, Muhammad Abasi, was arrested three weeks ago, but the Shin Bet is only releasing the details today.
Abasi was allegedly planning to carry out a shooting attack against the security forces and tried to buy a weapon for the attack, the Shin Bet says in a statement.
He also had several posts on Facebook praising Hamas and terror attacks, the Shin Bet says.
“Arresting Abasi, who as a resident of Jerusalem had access to the whole city, prevented a serious attack in Jerusalem,” the statement says.
— Judah Ari Gross
2 Yazidi survivors of IS win Sakharov prize
Two Yazidi women activists who escaped the Islamic State group in Iraq won the European Parliament’s prestigious Sakharov human rights prize on Thursday, European sources tell AFP.
The prize will be awarded to Nadia Murad and Lamia Haji Bashar during a midday session of the assembly in Strasbourg, France, the sources say shortly before the official announcement.
The women have become figureheads for the effort to protect the Yazidi community after having survived a nightmare captivity at the hands of the jihadists.
US general says 800-900 IS fighters killed in Mosul
A US general says that between 800 and 900 Islamic State group fighters have been killed since the Iraqi-led operation to recapture Mosul from the jihadists began.
“Just in the operations over the last week and a half associated with Mosul, we estimate they’ve probably killed about 800-900 Islamic State fighters,” says General Joseph Votel, who heads the US military’s Central Command, in an interview with AFP.
Iraqi security forces and Kurdish peshmerga fighters are pushing toward Mosul along several axes and have made relatively quick progress as they approach Mosul, Iraq’s second city.
The offensive, which began 10 days ago, has so far been concentrated in towns and villages around Mosul, and resistance may get heavier as Iraqi forces break through IS defenses and enter the city itself.
NIS 34m more approved for Holocaust survivors
Israel is approving an additional NIS 34 million ($8.85 million) in welfare payments to Holocaust survivors and veterans of the fight against the Nazis.
The payment was approved today by the Knesset’s Finance Committee and is retroactive to the beginning of 2015, Army Radio says.
From next year the state is budgeting NIS 48 million ($12.5 million) for the survivors, many of whom live in poverty and have trouble paying their medical bills.
Far-right MK Smotrich calls Arab students ‘illiterate’
Far-right MK Bezalel Smotrich sparked an outcry in the Knesset today and engaged in a shouting match with Arab-Israeli lawmaker Ahmad Tibi.
Smotrich (Jewish Home) railed against affirmative action for Arab students in Israel universities, saying, “Your illiterates are taking up places in the university,” Channel 2 reports.
Smotrich has a history of making controversial statements.
Tibi, from the Joint (Arab) List, called Smotrich a “fascist with an IQ,” Channel 2 says.
ewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich
Israeli student documentary makes Academy Award shortlist
Israel’s 2017 Oscar quest gets off to a hopeful start as the country scores a place in the first shortlist of documentary contenders released for the 89th Academy Awards.
“The Mute’s House,” entered by the Sam Spiegel Film & Television School in Jerusalem, makes the list of 10 documentary short subjects, winnowed from a list of 61 entries. The list was announced Wednesday.
The 31-minute film was made as a student documentary last year by Tamar Kay as director, writer and co-producer. It takes place in the Israeli part of the city of Hebron, whose last remaining Palestinian residents are eight-year-old Yousef and his deaf mother Sahar.
French Jews rally against silence on UNESCO Jerusalem votes
France’s main Jewish groups are urging members to rally in front of the headquarters of the country’s foreign ministry to protest its failure to oppose UNESCO resolutions that ignore Jewish ties to Jerusalem.
CRIF, the political lobby group representing French Jewish communities, in a rare move is joined by the Consistoire, French Jewry’s organ responsible for religious services, in organizing a protest rally for today opposite the Quai d’Orsay in Paris in reaction to the passing of two resolutions on Jerusalem this month by UNESCO committees.
France was among 26 countries that abstained from voting during the first resolution, which the Palestinians initiated and which was passed on October 13.
Jordan spokesman mocks Israel over UNESCO
Jordanian government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani has mocked Israel’s decision to recall its ambassador from UNESCO, local media reports.
Momani says that if Israel continues its current polices it will end up having to recall all its ambassadors around the world, Channel 10 reports.
Momani also calls on Israel to return its envoy to UNESCO.
Jordan supported the UN culture body’s resolution that ignores Jewish ties to Jerusalem holy sites. Israel on Wednesday recalled Ambassador Carmel Shama-Hacohen in protest.
Syria complains to UNESCO over Israeli Golan digs
Syria complains to the UN cultural body over alleged Israeli archaeological excavations in the Golan Heights.
The Syrians claim Israel is digging in the village of Bir Ajam in the Quneitra region on the Syria-Israel border. Israel captured the Golan from Syria in 1967.
Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama-Hacohen slams the complaint as ridiculous.
“This ridiculous complaint highlights the cynical use Arab states are making of UNESCO against Israel,” says Shama-Hacohen in a statement.
He notes that there has been widespread destruction of Syria’s archaeological heritage during the civil war.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday recalled Shama-Hacohen in protest of two recent resolutions by the UN cultural body that ignored Jewish and Christian historical ties to Jerusalem holy sites.
Rivlin visits family of teen killed in Egypt border shooting
President Reuven Rivlin is visiting the family of a 15-year-old Israeli killed while working on the border fence with Egypt.
Rivlin is at the mourning tent for Nimer Bassem Abu Amar in Lakiya, a predominantly Bedouin village in southern Israel.
“We are all citizens of the same state, we are all human beings. The pain of bereavement is the same pain, whether it is a child from Lakiya, Jerusalem, Haifa or Tel Aviv,” the president says after being embraced by the father.
The slain teenager was employed by a civilian subcontractor hired by the Defense Ministry, who had been performing maintenance work on the fence.
The family says that no Defense Ministry officials attended the boy’s funeral.
Overheating, El Al flight to Madrid turns back
An El Al flight from Tel Aviv to Madrid was forced to turn back due to rising temperature on the aircraft, Israel Radio says
Flight 297 returned to Ben Gurion International Airport and landed safely, the radio says.
It’s not immediately clear what caused the problem.
Netanyahu unveils new memorial to Altalena
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hails the spirit of the Altalena as he unveils a new memorial to the the victims of the controversial ammunition boat.
“The men of the Altalena gritted their teeth and joined the IDF to help defeat the invading Arabs,” Netanyahu says, unveiling the memorial to the 1948 Altalena incident, which cast a pall over the foundation of the Israel Defense Forces.
“We continue in their path. The war against our enemies is not over,” the prime minister says.
The ship, carrying a large consignment of arms and weapons, was brought to Israel by Menachem Begin’s Irgun militia during the country’s War of Independence, in June 1948. However, the nascent government of David Ben-Gurion, at bitter odds with Begin, demanded that the ship and its supplies be turned over to the newly formed IDF.
As the ship reached the coast and then ran aground, a standoff ensued that ended in a shootout between Irgun members aboard and IDF soldiers on the shore, who were ordered to destroy the vessel. The ship was set ablaze by a cannon that was allegedly under the command of a young Yitzhak Rabin, later the IDF chief of General Staff and prime minister.
Sixteen Irgun members and three IDF soldiers died in the incident, and the ship’s cargo was lost.
Israel says no archaeological digs in Syria village
The Israel Archaeological Institute says there are no Israeli digs in the Golan Heights village of Bir Ajam, noting it’s on the Syrian side of the border.
Syria is complaining to UNESCO over alleged Israeli archaeological excavations in Bir Ajam in the Quneitra region on the Syria-Israel border. Israel captured part of the Golan from Syria in 1967.
Reached for comment, the Israel Antiquities Authority, which oversees Israeli archaeological digs, says there is no IAA-related activity in Bir Ajam.
— Ilan Ben-Zion
4 Iranian arms shipments to Yemen stopped: US admiral
Warships from the US Navy and allied nations have intercepted four weapons shipments from Iran to war-ravaged Yemen since April 2015, a US admiral says.
Yemen has been rocked by conflict since Iran-backed Houthi rebels overran the capital Sanaa and other large parts of the country in 2014, prompting military intervention by a Saudi-led coalition in March last year in support of the internationally recognized government.
The United States and Saudi Arabia have accused Iran of arming the insurgents, and while Tehran denies the charges, the coalition has since enforced maritime and air controls over the Arabian Peninsula country.
“Either US ships or coalition ships… intercepted four weapons shipments from Iran to Yemen,” says US Vice Admiral Kevin Donegan.
“We know they came from Iran and we know the destination,” he tells reporters at an undisclosed military base in Southwest Asia.
Man shot dead after stabbing guard at US Embassy in Kenya
A Kenyan police official says a man has been shot dead after stabbing a policeman guarding the perimeter wall of the US Embassy in Nairobi.
Vitalis Otieno, the officer in charge of the Gigiri area that hosts several embassies, says a pedestrian walking along the street stabbed the policeman on Thursday and attempted to take his gun.
Otieno says the identity of the attacker is known to police and says he is a Kenyan from the volatile region of Wajir.
The US Embassy confirms there was a shooting and says no embassy personnel were involved.
Monument at Palestinian university encourages martyrdom
A monument to martyrs at the Palestinian Al-Quds University in Ramallah is encouraging students to “die in a hail of bullets.”
Israeli monitor group Palestinian Media Watch notes that the inscription on the newly erected monument says: “Beware of natural death; do not die, but amidst the hail of bullets.”
PMW says the monument was put in place by the Al-Quds branch of The Progressive Student Action Front, the student group affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Widespread El Al delays at Ben Gurion
Hundreds of travelers are stranded at Ben Gurion International airport due to a series of delays involving El Al flights, media reports.
Several flights are delayed after pilots fail to arrive at the airport and technical issues affect other flights, Walla reports.
The airport is also affected by severe weather as Israel experiences its first winter rains.
Putin slams claims of Russian meddling in US election as ‘hysteria’
President Vladimir Putin slams claims that Russia has attempted to interfere in the upcoming US presidential elections by hacking American political institutions as “hysteria.”
“The number of mythical, dreamed-up problems includes the hysteria — I can’t think of another word — that has broken out in the United States about the influence of Russia on the current elections for the US president,” Putin says at a meeting of political scientists in Sochi.
Washington last week formally accused the Russian government of trying to “interfere” in the 2016 White House race by hacking US political institutions, charges the Kremlin has repeatedly dismissed.
“Does anyone seriously think Russia can somehow influence the choice of the US people? Is the US some kind of banana republic? The United States is a great power. Please correct me if I’m wrong,” Putin says.
Jesus burial place exposed for first time in centuries, report
Scientists have uncovered the original surface of what tradition holds is the tomb of Jesus for the first time in centuries, National Geographic reports.
The tomb, in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City, has been covered by marble cladding since at least 1555 CE, and most likely centuries earlier, the report says.
“The marble covering of the tomb has been pulled back, and we were surprised by the amount of fill material beneath it,” says Fredrik Hiebert, archaeologist-in-residence at the National Geographic Society, a partner in the restoration project.
“It will be a long scientific analysis, but we will finally be able to see the original rock surface on which, according to tradition, the body of Christ was laid,” Hiebert says.
Christian tradition holds that the body of Jesus was placed on a shelf hewn from the side of a limestone cave following his crucifixion by the Romans.
Netanyahu in secret meeting on bad-boy MK, report
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has held a secret meeting with top Likud party officials on how to deal with MK Oren Hazan after a judge determined the scandal-plagued lawmaker took hard drugs prior to his election to the Knesset, Channel 2 reports.
The meeting was held last night in Netanyahu’s office, Channel 2 says. No decisions were made but participants discussed the political ramifications of ousting Hazan.
A judge ruled Tuesday that a 2015 investigative TV report alleging Hazan had hired prostitutes for his friends and taken crystal meth in 2013 while managing a casino in Bulgaria amounted to “responsible, serious journalism and reflected the reality as it was.”
Abbas meeting with Hamas leaders in Doha, report
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is meeting with Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Mashaal in Doha, Qatar, an Arabic paper reports.
The London-based Al-Araby Al-Jadeed says Abbas is calling for reconciliation between his Fatah party and Hamas.
Hamas and Abbas’ Fatah have been at odds since Hamas ousted Fatah from the Gaza Strip in a bloody takeover in 2007.
— Avi Issacharoff
President of Fiji forced to land in Eilat
An aircraft carrying the President of Fiji George Konrote is forced to land in Eilat today due to severe weather, Ynet says.
Konrote was en route to the Sinai in Egypt to visit Fijian peace keepers who are stationed there as part of an international peacekeeping force. He was taken to a hotel in the resort city, Ynet says.
The region is experiencing the first winter rains, which are accompanied by severe sandstorms in southern Israel and the Sinai.
The South Pacific nation has stationed peacekeepers in Egypt since 1982 after the signing of the Israel-Egypt peace accords, with the latest group of a little over 300 beginning a planned one-year rotation in February. However, it recently brought home about 65 due to increasing violence between Egypt’s armed forces and militants affiliated with the Islamic State group.