The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.
Fire threatens homes in Jerusalem neighborhood
Some residents of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot are being told to leave their homes as a brush fire in a forest surrounding the area nears homes.
A horse ranch has also been evacuated, police say.
Some eight firefighting teams are battling the blaze in the Ramot forest, in the north of the city. The blaze was apparently started by a Lag B’Omer holiday bonfire, according to media reports.
Smoke and aerial firefighters circling entrance to Jerusalem as large forest fire breaks out in Ramot neighborhood pic.twitter.com/9Ky9FhQtvA
— Yehoshua Oz (@YehoshuaOz) May 26, 2016
Police have also shut traffic in the Arazim tunnel, which skirts the neighborhood and runs beneath the forest, according to the Israel National News website.
Obama says world leaders ‘rattled’ by Trump
Visiting Japan, US President Barack Obama says foreign leaders are “rattled” by Donald Trump and have good reason to feel that way, accusing the presumptive Republican presidential nominee of ignorance about world affairs.
Weighing in on the Democratic race to replace him, Obama also downplays concerns that the protracted fight between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders is hurting his party’s chances, brushing off their escalating attacks as the inevitable “grumpiness” of a primary campaign.
On the sidelines of a Group of Seven advanced economies summit in Japan, the latest world gathering to be colored by global concerns about Trump, Obama said foreign leaders at the conference are “surprised by the Republican nominee” and unsure how seriously to take his pronouncements.
“They are rattled by it — and for good reason,” Obama says. “Because a lot of the proposals he has made display either ignorance of world affairs, or a cavalier attitude, or an interest in getting tweets and headlines.”
He contrasts that to proposals that thoughtfully address what’s required to keep the US safe and prosperous and “to keep the world on an even keel.”
Brush fires break out near Ashkelon
Brush fires are also being reported in the area around Ashkelon, Channel 10 news says.
The holiday of Lag B’Omer, traditionally marked with bonfires, is combining with hot and dry weather to make Israel’s scrub land especially combustible, though it’s not clear how the fires near Ashkelon started.
— חדשות 10 (@news10) May 26, 2016
Homes evacuated in second Jerusalem neighborhood
Police say they are evacuating residents from two apartment buildings in the neighborhood of Gilo, in the southeast of the city, as a brush fear nears the area.
Meanwhile, a video posted by Channel 2 news shows planes dropping fire retardant on flames outside Ramot on the other side of town.
עדכונים שוטפים מהשריפה >> https://t.co/CJ1hXvYaU5
צילום: יוסי ערן pic.twitter.com/8SKPHICuDt
— חדשות 2 (@Channel2News) May 26, 2016
Mevaseret residents told to skedaddle as blaze nears homes
Homes in the town of Mevaseret Zion west of Jerusalem are also being evacuated, police say, as the same fire in the Arazim Valley forest outside Ramot also threatens houses there.
Police say there are no injuries from the fires in the Arazim Valley and Gilo.
Temple Mount advocate MK complains over Arab lawmaker’s plan to ascend
Newly installed MK Yehudah Glick writes on Twitter that he has filed a complaint with the Knesset Ethics Committee over Arab MK Masud Ganaim’s announced plan to ascend the Temple Mount despite a directive for lawmakers to stay away from the holy site.
Glick is an outspoken advocate for Jewish prayer on the site in the framework of freedom of religion for all there, but has said he will refrain from visiting the esplanade after the prime minister banned lawmakers from entering the site as a way to cool tensions.
Ganaim, the head of the Ra’am party within the Joint List of Arab parties, was one of three MKs who sent a letter to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich saying they would go on the Temple Mount during the upcoming holy month of Ramadan.
Glick tweets that Masoud intends to “crudely trample and ignore the Ethics Committee’s regulations.”
Helicopter helping to fight fires near Kiryat Malachi
A series of brush fires have broken out near the town of Kiryat Malachi, southeast of Tel Aviv, police say.
Firefighters are battling the blaze with the help of a helicopter, police say in a tweet.
It’s not immediately clear if any homes are threatened by the fires.
A fire is also reported near Karmiel, in Israel’s north, Army Radio reports.
In Jerusalem, firefighters are continuing to battle blazes in the Arazim Valley and near Gilo.
New Defense Ministry head (not Liberman) takes post
Maj. Gen. (res.) Udi Adam replaces Dan Harel as director general of the Defense Ministry, following an official ceremony in the army’s Tel Aviv headquarters.
Adam, a former IDF general and head of Israel’s Nuclear Research Center in Dimona, was appointed to the position of director-general last month by former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon.
“We’ll take the baton and do the work in the best and most professional way possible, as our central mission is to support the needs of the IDF,” Adam says.
Harel, who has served in the position since 2013, announced his plans to leave last month, before the recent political shakeup that ended with his former boss Moshe Ya’alon resigning as defense minister just before he was kicked out of the position for the incoming Avigdor Liberman.
During his farewell speech, Harel doesn’t explicitly mention Ya’alon’s ouster, but makes clear references to the dramatic turn of events.
“In the past three years our lives have been shook up, from the Islamic State and in general. Our lives here in Israel have changed as well. There was a very large internal change, in terms of the Defense Ministry and in terms of defense in general,” Harel says.
“The Defense Ministry, which is the ministry with the largest amount of operational power in the country, will continue to work toward its missions and national missions with the incredible commitment of its workers,” he says.
Ordinarily, the defense minister would oversee such a ceremony, but Liberman will only take up the position next week.
— Judah Ari Gross
Knife-carrying Palestinian stopped in Hebron
Border guards have arrested a Palestinian man in possession of a knife near the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, a police spokesperson says.
The man, a 26-year-old resident of the West Bank city, had “aroused the suspicion” of the officers. When they carried out a search, the border guards discovered the weapon, police say.
The suspect has been handed over to security forces for further questioning.
Border police arrest Palestinian age 26 from Hebron with knife before carrying out attack near cave of patriarchs. pic.twitter.com/bJg1YOPOlj
— Micky Rosenfeld (@MickyRosenfeld) May 26, 2016
— Judah Ari Gross
Homes evacuated in Abu Ghosh, other blazes break out elsewhere
Police say 10 homes in the town of Abu Ghosh, west of Jerusalem, have been evacuated, and that there are fires in the Tzelafon forest southwest of the city.
They also say all roads in Jerusalem that had been closed because of fires have been reopened.
A fire is also being reported near Meron, near the town of Safed in the Galilee, a pilgrimage site visited by hundreds of thousands over the Lag B’aomer holiday Wednesday night and Thursday.
UN envoy readies to announce new Syria talks
The UN special envoy for Syria says he will speak to the UN Security Council and announce afterward plans for the resumption of stalled peace talks between the government and the opposition.
Staffan de Mistura says he will ask the council on Thursday for “the best options for the resumption of the talks” but tells reporters that he isn’t ready to announce a planned date.
De Mistura says he wants the council to “guide” him and said the talks should resume urgently amid continued violence in the country. But he says the humanitarian situation and a wobbly truce needed to improve for the talks to be “credible.”
He says the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins in June, “will not be a factor” in determining the talks’ timetable.
Some residents okayed to return home
Residents of Mevaseret Zion outside Jerusalem forced to leave their homes over a brush fire raging nearby have been given the okay to return home, as firefighters beat back the blaze, Channel 2 news reports.
Across the Arazim Valley in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot, a total of 60 homes have been evacuated, the Walla news site reports.
A total of 48 firefighting teams and 11 units are battling the blaze there, the report says.
In the Galilee, hikers near the town of Bar Yochai, near Meron, have also been evacuated because of a fire there.
Fire breaks out in Romema area of capital
Residents of the neighborhoods of Romema and Lifta are being evacuated as a blaze threatens the neighborhood on the western edge of the city’s center.
The blaze is the latest in a rash of fires to break out in the capital, filling the air around the city with a smoky haze and stench of burnt toast.
Bangladesh activist charged with sedition for meeting Israeli
Bangladesh police have charged a senior opposition official with sedition for allegedly plotting against the state when he met an Israeli government adviser, an official says.
The move comes as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government is stepping up a crackdown on political opponents in the Muslim-majority country, which is reeling from a wave of killings blamed on Islamists.
Aslam Chowdhury, a joint secretary of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), was arrested last week after local media reported he had met an Israeli government adviser in India in March.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police spokesman Masudur Rahman says Chowdhury has been charged with sedition and could face up to three years if convicted.
“We have filed a sedition case against Aslam Chowdhury after we received a greenlight from the home ministry,” Rahman told AFP.
The case was filed hours after the national police chief told reporters that police had “found evidence” that “Chowdhury conspired with an Israeli politician to overthrow (Hasina’s) Awami League-led government.”
Chowdhury, a tycoon from the southern city of Chittagong, has denied plotting against the government and told reporters he met the Israeli adviser during a “personal business trip” to India.
Bangladesh has no diplomatic ties with Israel and Bangladeshis are banned from traveling to the country.
Critics say the arrest was part of a crackdown Hasina’s government has launched against the country’s main opposition parties, which include the BNP and its Islamist ally, Jamaat-e-islami.
Dutch court sends French terror suspect home to face charges
Dutch judges have agreed to send a wanted Frenchman back to his home country where he faces accusations of involvement in a foiled terror attack.
Police raided an apartment in Rotterdam in late March at France’s request where they arrested Anis Bahri, and found about 45 kilograms (almost 100 pounds) of ammunition.
Bahri is suspected of planning to carry out an attack in France for the Islamic State group along with Reda Kriket, another suspect detained near Paris a few days before him.
“The court doesn’t see any reason to refuse handing you back (to French authorities) and so approves the request,” judge Hans Kijlstra tells the public court hearing in Amsterdam.
Bahri, 32, had sought to fight his return to France, saying he feared he would be sentenced to life imprisonment and mistreated in a French jail.
But the court rejected his pleas, and stressed that no proceedings were being brought against him in the Netherlands.
“Based on the information available to us about detention conditions in France, we are unable to conclude that there’s a real danger of such treatment,” judge Kijlstra says in his verdict.
Pro-Israel Brits whip WHO for ‘anti-Israel’ resolution
The British Conservative Friends of Israel group has condemned the World Health organization for a resolution calling to investigate alleged health rights abuses by Israel against Palestinians and Syrians.
Sir Eric Pickles and Lord Stuart Polak of the CFI accuse the WHO of attempting to delegitimize Israel with the resolution.
“It is shameful that the World Health Organisation has yet again singled out Israel above any other country in the world, including those with grave human rights records,” the two say in a statement.
The WHO resolution, passed Tuesday, commissions a delegation to investigate and report on “the health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory” and in “the occupied Syrian Golan,” and to place it on the agenda at next year’s meeting.
The reports are to focus on “the impact of prolonged occupation and human rights violations on mental, physical and environmental health.”
The United Kingdom, France, Germany were among 107 countries that voted for the proposal during this week’s gathering in Geneva. Eight countries voted against the resolution and eight abstained, while 58 other countries taking part in the assembly were absent for the vote.
“The UK’s support for this politically motivated attempt to delegitimize the world’s only Jewish state is deeply worrying,” Pickles and Polak say.
— with Raoul Wootliff
Firefighters beat back blazes around Jerusalem
Fire official Arik Abulaf tells Channel 2 that firefighters have beaten back most of the fires threatening the capital.
He says no new fires have broken out, referring to it as a lull.
According to the report, investigators are still trying to figure what led to the rash of fires and whether they were caused by arson, negligence or anything else.
Trump clinches GOP nomination with delegate count
Donald Trump has reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign.
Trump has been put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party’s unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention. Among them is Oklahoma GOP chairwoman Pam Pollard.
“I think he has touched a part of our electorate that doesn’t like where our country is,” Pollard says. “I have no problem supporting Mr. Trump.”
It takes 1,237 delegates to win the Republican nomination for president. Trump has reached 1,238. With 303 delegates at stake in five state primaries on June 7, Trump will easily pad his total, avoiding a contested convention in Cleveland in July.
Trump, a political neophyte who for years delivered caustic commentary on the state of the nation from the sidelines but had never run for office, fought off 16 other Republican contenders in an often ugly primary race.
Many on the right have been slow to warm to Trump, wary of his conservative bona fides. Others worry about Trump’s crass personality and the lewd comments he’s made about women.
‘Concern’ as Turkish Cypriots limit church attendance
A UN envoy has expressed “deep concern” over a newly imposed limit on worship in Orthodox Christian churches inside ethnically divided Cyprus’ breakaway Turkish Cypriot north.
Espen Barth Eide says he has asked Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci to help “rectify” the new policy that reportedly limits worship in any church to once a year.
Eide, who is mediating ongoing reunification talks, says the move runs “directly counter to the bi-communal spirit” that has been built up in recent years.
Cyprus’ Christian and Muslim leaders have over the last few years taken great strides in promoting religious freedom, especially in the north where derelict churches have remained unused for decades.
Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece.
Blazes under control, residents okayed to go home
Residents of all Jerusalem neighborhoods and surrounding towns forced out of their homes by out of control blazes have been given the okay to return home, according to news reports.
Firefighters say they have control over all the fires that broke out around the capital, though a fire official tells Channel 2 news that a fire in the Ramot neighborhood is not yet under complete control.
Residents of Yosef Gabai Street in the capital’s Romema neighborhood are being asked to close their windows for fear of smoke inhalation, according to Walla News.
Clinton on email scandal: It’s cool, everyone does it
Hillary Clinton has defended her use of a private email server for official correspondence while US secretary of state, insisting her actions were no different from those of her predecessors.
One day after the release of a critical State Department investigation faulting her use of personal email for government business, Clinton vows that she will not allow the issue to dog her campaign.
“There may be reports that come out, but nothing has changed,” the Democratic White House front-runner says in an interview broadcast by CNN.
“It’s the same story. Just like previous secretaries of state, I used a personal email. Many people did. It was not at all unprecedented,” she says.
Sanders says he’ll push for Palestinian rights in Dem platform
Bernie Sanders expects his views on Palestinians rights to be reflected at the Democratic National Convention, and his appointees to the party’s platform drafting committee have pledged to push for acknowledgement of the Israeli occupation, he says in a statement reported in The New York Times.
“I have always and will always be 100 percent supportive of Israel’s right to exist and live in peace and security,” Sanders, the Independent senator from Vermont who is vying for the Democratic presidential nod, says.
“I also believe that lasting peace in the region will not occur without fair and respectful treatment of the Palestinian people,” he says. “I believe that most Democrats agree with that position and that a strong consensus will be achieved at the Democratic National Convention.”
Sanders, the first Jewish candidate to win major party nominating contests, has said that he is “100 percent” pro-Israel and has argued in left wing circles for the need to preserve Israel’s security. He has also chided fellow Democrats, chief among them his rival, Hillary Clinton, who is the front-runner in the nomination stakes, for not paying enough attention to the Palestinians. He has decried Israel’s settlements policy and has said it uses force disproportionately in dealing with Palestinian violence.
Sanders’ statement comes after he named a slate of five delegates to the 15-person platform drafting committee that includes three people known for pro-Palestinian activism: Philosopher Cornel West, James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute, and Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn.
The Democratic party platform has for years favored a two-state outcome to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but has also cast that posture on pro-Israel terms, and has laid the blame for the longstanding impasse mostly on the Palestinians.
Canadian-Palestinian rapper dumps TV slot over Trump
Canadian-Palestinian rapper Belly says he canceled a coveted appearance on a late-night US television show as a protest against fellow guest Donald Trump.
Belly had been due to perform with R&B sensation The Weeknd on Wednesday night on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” to promote the rapper’s upcoming album “Another Day in Paradise.”
But Belly says he scrapped the performance because Trump was the main guest, with the rapper saying he preferred to focus on “positivity and love.”
“I just didn’t want to feel like I was part of a celebration for somebody who has beliefs the majority of us don’t agree with,” said Belly, who as born in the West Bank and grew up in the Canadian capital Ottawa.
“To play my part in this business is a privilege and a beautiful thing. The fact that I could lose that ability through the actions of someone such as Donald Trump isn’t right to me. At all,” he says.
Search on for teens lost in desert near Dead Sea
Search and rescue teams are looking for two teens who apparently got lost while hiking in the Judean Desert near the Dead Sea.
The two, both 19, were hiking among desert cliffs near the community of Mitzpe Shalem when they went missing, according to Channel 2 news.
UN official warns of food crisis in besieged Syrian towns
The UN humanitarian aid coordinator for Syria, Jan Egeland, says the threat of children dying from malnutrition hangs over at least three communities besieged by government troops.
Access to besieged areas in Syria has fallen short of what was planned for May, Egeland said. Out of 1 million people, only 160,000 have been reached with aid so far, he says, citing problems including government restrictions.
Two Damascus suburbs, Daraya and Moadamiyeh, and a district in the central city of Homs, al-Waer, all besieged by government forces, are locations where the situation “is still horrendously critical,” he adds. “Children are so malnourished in these places that they will be dying if we are not able to reach them.”
Additionally, activists in Daraya say government forces shelled several areas in the town Thursday, attempting to advance from the south in violation of a cease-fire. There were no reports of casualties.
The International Support Group of Syria, which includes the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey, had set a June 1 deadline for the resumption of humanitarian aid to areas cut off from the outside world, saying if land routes remain blocked, food aid will be air dropped.
At least seven hundred tons of aid has been air dropped on at least 110,000 people in areas besieged by Islamic State fighters in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour.
Sanders, Trump teams in talks to make debate happen
Officials with Bernie Sander’s presidential campaign say back-channel talks are underway with representatives of Donald Trump to arrange a rare, unsanctioned bi-partisan debate, MSNBC reports.
Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver predicts to MSNBC that the debate would be one of the most watched in history.
“Let’s see if he has the courage to go one-on-one with Bernie Sanders,” he says, according to the Hill.
On Wednesday night, Trump said he would be up to debate Sanders if the money went to charity.
While some in the Trump camp have backpedaled over Trump’s statements, adviser Sarah Huckabee Sanders tells MSNBC the presumptive GOP nominee would be happy to debate the presumptive Democratic also-ran.
Game on. I look forward to debating Donald Trump in California before the June 7 primary.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) May 26, 2016
Attorney general dismisses Bibi Tours cover up claims
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is defending his predecessor Yehuda Weinstein against claims he dragged his feet investigating allegations of wrongdoings involving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s financing for trips abroad.
In a reply to a question from MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union), Mandelblit says there’s no basis to the claims Weinstein dragged his feet in investigating the so-called “Bibi Tours” case, in which Netanyahu allegedly received gifts from businessmen and others to pay for trips abroad for him and his wife Sara when he was finance minister last decade.
Mandelblit said he would look into the allegations after a state comptroller report released earlier this week detailed some of the claims and said they could be criminal, almost five years after the claims first surfaced.
More information left out of the report is also being probed.
Hasson in his letter accused Weinsetin of covering up the case and dragging his feet to protect Netanyahu.
Mandelblit responded that Hasson’s accusation was harsh and that Weinstein did everything according to the letter of the law.
Up to 100 feared dead in migrant ship flip disaster
Survivors of a fishing boat shipwreck in the Mediterranean off the coast of Libya on Wednesday say that some 100 migrants may have drowned, the International Organization of Migration says.
“The survivors who talked to our teams when they landed at Porto Empedocle (Sicily) spoke of 100 missing people who were stuck in the hull,” IOM spokesman in Italy Flavio Di Giacomo tells AFP.
According to those who made it to land, the boat was carrying some 650 people when it set sail from chaos-wracked Libya, “most of them Moroccans”, Di Giacomo said.
Earlier estimates had put the toll of Wednesday’s disaster at five.
While the Italian navy was able to rescue 562 people from the water, Wednesday’s shipwreck may be one of the worst tragedies since the migrant crisis began.
Elton John plays for 40,000 in Tel Aviv
British piano man Elton John is playing for some 40,000 fans in Tel Aviv, as his highly touted show gets underway.
Wearing a glittery purple suit and matching hat and singing while playing on a grand piano atop the Park Hayarkon stage, John tells fans he’s “happy to be back.”
This is his fourth show in Israel since 1980, including a 1993 gig he nearly canceled after getting annoyed by paparazzi.
Egyptian president vows justice after Muslims attack Christian woman
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has called for the culprits behind a Muslim mob that attacked an elderly Christian woman and ransacked homes to be held accountable and gave the military a month to restore property damaged during the violence, at no cost to the owners.
The mob stripped the woman and paraded her naked on the streets in an attack last week in which seven Christian homes were also ransacked and torched in a province south of the Egyptian capital.
According to the local Orthodox Coptic church and security officials, the assault in the Minya province village of Karama on Friday began after rumors spread that the elderly woman’s son had an affair with a Muslim woman — a taboo in conservative Egypt.
Police have arrested six men suspected of taking part in the violence and are looking for 12 more, the security officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
In a statement issued by his office, Sissi says Egypt appreciates the role of “glorious Egyptian women” and that “the rights and the protection of their dignity are a humanitarian and patriotic commitment as well as a legal and constitutional one.”
Anba Makarios, Minya’s top Christian cleric, told a talk show host on the private Dream TV network that the 70-year-old woman was dragged out of her home by the mob who beat her and insulted her before they stripped her off her clothes and forced her to walk through the streets as they chanted Allahu Akbar, or “God is great.”
The woman reported the incident to the police five days later, said Makarios, adding that she had initially found it too difficult to “swallow the humiliation” she suffered and go to the police.